Accomplishing Nothing

Accomplishing Nothing

Up until last week, it had been 2 years since I had written a single blog/article. I’d have friends ask me why I wasn’t writing and my response was, “I don’t have anything good to say.” And I had decided, following that old golden rule, if you don’t have anything nice to say than you shouldn’t say anything at all.

So I didn’t.

I decided that maybe I was done with trying to encourage others with the written word. If I couldn’t encourage my own heart how in the world was I going to encourage someone (ANYONE) else?!

Then, recently, a week after I had preached at my church, I had someone call me a hypocrite. “How could you preach with such anointing and then act the way you do?” If I was what that person said I was — a hypocrite– than I certainly shouldn’t be speaking publicly.

It seemed like only more confirmation that I should continue to be muzzled. I didn’t want to risk saying something wrong or worse yet hurtful. In many ways, that philosophy ran over into my personal life, too.

My struggles had kept me silent and I thought that I couldn’t write until I was “better”. Whatever that means. But here I am, chest deep in struggle and I’m clawing myself to the keyboard to squeak out something that might bring us hope.

When we go through suffering one of the questions we like to ask is “Why is this happening to me?! The rest of the conversation, at least from my end, goes something like this: Haven’t I done enough?

Ah. There it is: the sting of Truth. I’ve been working at trying to be enough since I was a kid. I thought if I wasn’t so fat maybe then I would be enough. If I got better grades maybe then I would be enough. If I was athletic maybe then I would be enough.

Those thoughts easily moved into my relationship with Jesus. If I read the Bible more then I will be enough. If I pray and fast more then I will be enough. If I serve every week at church then I will be enough.

Sitting across the table from a dear friend and mentor last week I asked her, “What do I need to do to get out of this difficult season? Just tell me, what am I not doing?”

Rest.

::groan::

I do that so well. (Please read that in the font: sarcasm)

But I also knew what she was saying was right because God has been telling me the same thing. Actually, two days earlier I was at a Youth Conference and sang these words:

“I won’t rest until I find my rest in you. You are where my hope is!” (Find Rest)

The words landed heavy in my chest and I knew that simple phrase was what God was trying to get through to me. He wanted me to be just as devoted and determined to rest as I had been about striving.

To continue to drive the point home further, I was brought to this verse in John 6 twice this week:

John 6:63 (NLT) “It is the Spirit who gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

Those words are from Jesus. At the time, He had just shared some difficult Truth with His disciples and they were complaining because it offended them and it was too hard for them to get. (Uh, relateable.) So, He reminds them it’s the Holy Spirit that does the work and all of our effort or striving gets us nothing. At which point, many of His disciples left.

Guess they didn’t like what they heard. Kinda like how I didn’t like what I was being told. But Jesus was/IS right and I know it.

All our “trying so hard” is getting us burnt out and discouraged. It’s not going to bring us the freedom and PEACE we’re searching for. Admittedly, working/doing/striving comes easier for me. It’s easier than quieting down and allowing the Holy Spirit to work– to give over control and trust that He will do a good work in me.

Maybe you find yourself in a similar season. You’ve tried it all and nothing has worked, but you keep spinning your wheels finding yourself in a deeper hole. Give rest a shot. Put as much energy and devotion into rest as you do in your work. Hold it as sacred time where God can do some repair on the areas of your heart that have been bruised and broken.

It may seem like you are accomplishing nothing. In fact, that’s exactly right. You aren’t so He can.

 

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Rest Takes Work

resttakeswork

Seems ironic, doesn’t it?

Rest takes work.

I’m convinced of it. For me it does, anyway.

I have this friend who visits my office periodically. We’ll spend a few minutes catching up on life and ministry events.  Then, without fail, he’ll ask me if I’m taking time to rest.

“Rest?” I laugh.

“Yes, Holly, people do that. God even commanded it. He even rested. You do know its part of the Ten Commandments, right?.”

“Ohhhhhhh….righhhhtttttt. The Ten Commandments. I forgot.” 😉

I try to tease, but my friend is always persistent. Probably because for the past 4 years every time he sees me I’ve got big black circles under my eyes and have a frantic crazed look.

Rest? Eh, I’ll rest when I’m dead I’ve convinced myself. And with that type of thinking it might just put me in the grave faster.

This weekend I spent some time resting. I did absolutely nothing. The only way I could justify my actions (or a few hours of NON-ACTION) was reminding myself that I had been out late the night before and with another late night ahead of me it was OK to just “veg out”.

Unfortunately, this down time left me feeling guilty. Shouldn’t I be doing something. There’s blog posts to write, dishes to wash, bills to pay….the list goes on and on.

Rest doesn’t come easy for me, but I believe it is essential to maintaining an intimate relationship with Jesus. I’m pretty sure He thinks so, too, because He keeps whispering in my ear: You can stop now.

God keeps reminding me of the disciple John. John or the “one whom Jesus loved”, as he refereed to himself in the Gospel he penned, knew something about rest. As he recounts the story of the Last Supper, he mentions how he leaned back on Jesus’ chest. I’m not sure John realized it at the time, but his life was about to get chaotic, to say the least, and those restful moments helped prepare him for what was to come.

So, I’ve got to honestly ask myself:

When is the last time I just leaned on Him?

When is the last time I put my head against His chest and listened to His heart beat?

When I get to Heaven, Jesus isn’t going to ask me to give Him a Powerpoint presentation showcasing all the work I did for Him. He’s going to be most interested in knowing if I knew Him. (And ya, He’ll already know.)

Of course He’ll love listening to my stories about the many summers I spent working with children. He’ll smile as I recount the moments where I found such joy in hearing about their testimonies about the love they had for Him. Like any good friend, He’ll laugh and nod as if its the first time He’s hearing all about it.

But I’m not getting into Heaven based on my logged ministry hours. It’s not based on Sundays spent in the walls of a church. It’s not based on the number of countries I visit offering humanitarian work. It’s not based on how many people read and follow my blog.

What matters in the end is the time I spent with Him. And, as much as I love squeezing Him into my hectic schedule by praying in the car between meetings….He demands more. (Actually, He’s looking for *ALL* but that’s another post)

He’s looking for me to stop awhile and lean on Him. To listen. To soak in His presence. To enjoy Him.

For me, resting might look like taking a few hours to journal with my favorite Starbucks drink in hand, or take a day off and spend it hiking with friends, or play a silly game with siblings or….take a NAP. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that, but we’ve got to allow Him to refresh us and to speak to us in our weary places. He will, too. 

Recently. I’ve heard His voice as I relaxed in a hammock in the Adirondacks or while eating some ice cream with my niece. They weren’t Earth shaking “spiritual” events, just normal every day moments where I slowed down and listened for His heart beat. 

I’ll need to be intentional with my time and I’ll certainly still need my friends to keep me accountable. My schedule won’t magically open up, but I’ll need to start saying no to some things, which is a lot harder than it sounds. It’ll take work, but I’ve never regretted my time with Him. Never once did it feel wasted. 

And from time to time I’ll have to tell my soul: “Rest, Holly. It’s OK.”