“In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15
In Hebrews 3 and 4, God speaks of His children “labouring” to enter into His rest. He uses as His example of “unrest” the children of Israel who, because of unbelief (in spite of having seen the Red Sea part) could not enter into the rest God had promised them. True rest is associated with faith, with abandoning yourself to God–never with trying harder, doing more or “fixing” things yourself. God says of those stiff-necked, hardheaded children of His:
Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said . . .they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath They shall not enter into my rest. (Hebrews 3: 10-11) So then we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. (v. 19). Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. (Hebrews 4:1) For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. (v. 10-11)
There is a difference between “peace” and “rest.” For example, after the First World War, there was thirty years of “peace.” The enemy had been defeated and a peace treaty signed and the fighting stopped, but the problems that had started the war in the first place remained unsolved. The opposing forces stopped fighting for thirty years and there was “peace,” but because there was no “rest,” fighting started again. So it is with us. Until we face the cause of our lack of rest and deal with it, we may not be hearing the sound of gunfire, so to speak, but we will not be at ease.
Cast yourself on God.
This is a conscious act of your will to commit yourself without reservation to God and to say, like Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15)
- This is not an effort on your part to do more for God or to work to prove yourself worthy of His help.
- This is not a questioning of Him or of yourself to try to “figure out” what went wrong and why.
- This is not a “sentimental, ” half-hearted resignation to “what must be.”
This is a deliberate turning to Him, taking His yoke (Matthew 11:28-30) and trusting Him despite all obstacles or interference from outside sources. This is committing yourself “for the long haul,” determining that no matter what God brings into your life, you will trust Him without reservation. (Proverbs 3:5-6) Oswald Chambers calls this “abandoning” yourself to God. (see end of outline.)
Stay near the cross.
In order to learn how to trust God with your life, remember you have trusted him with the salvation of your soul. When all else fails (and even when things are going well), go back to the cross. Remember that it was there that God settled the eternal destiny of your soul once for all.
Have a difficult person you can’t “deal with”? Have some treasured possession you can’t give up? Have a “besetting sin” you can’t conquer? Take it to the cross. Kneel at the foot of the cross (in your mind’s eye) and yield that problem to God. You’ll get the perspective you need.
Look “beyond the wind.”
Recognize that the circumstances God brings into your life are of His making and not the cruelty of your “enemies” or “chance happenings.” Job 1:12-22. Job did not blame the Sabeans or the Chaldeans or the fire or the wind. He–as one author said–“looked beyond the wind to see the hand of God.”
The heart can only rest upon and enjoy the blessed truth of the absolute sovereignty of God as faith is in exercise. Faith is ever occupied with God. That is the character of it: that is what differentiates it from intellectual theology. Faith endures as “seeing Him who is invisible.” (Hebrew 11:27): endures the disappointments, the hardships and the heartaches of life, by recognizing that all comes from the hand of Him who is too wise to err and too loving to be unkind. But so long as we are occupied with any other object than God Himself, there will be neither rest for the heart nor peace for the mind. But when we receive all that enters our lives as from His hand, then, no matter what may be our circumstances or surroundings, we shall be enabled to say, “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places (Psalm 16:6). But that is the language of faith, not of sight or of sense. A.W. Pink–The Sovereignty of God
Faith is not intelligent understanding, faith is deliberate commitment to a Person when I see no way. Oswald Chambers–My Utmost for His Highest
Don’t have faith in faith. It’s not up to you to work up enough courage to prove to God that you believe Him. “If you can figure it out, it isn’t faith.”
Protect your mind.
- Negative thinking–Don’t panic. “There’s a simple (not necessarily painless) solution to every problem if you remain calm.” Philippians 4:8; Psalm 42
- Excessive interference–Stop talking and start listening–listening to God and a few trusted advisors and friends. Mark 1:33 Turn off the television, the radio, the CD player and the Internet. How can God speak to you if you cannot hear Him?
When the darkness of dismay comes, endure until it is over, because out of it will come that following of Jesus which is an unspeakable joy. Oswald Chambers
Stop fighting God’s purpose and allow yourself to be “crumpled into the purpose of God.” Joshua 5:13-15
Yielding to Jesus will break every form of slavery in any human life. Oswald Chambers
Control your boundaries.
“He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down and without walls.” Proverbs 25:28
We live in a frenzied generation. Every day and everywhere (even in “the church”) there is a new plan for being better, looking better, doing more, doing better, adding something else (whatever it is) to your home, your life, your day. Our churches are full of people who are frustrated, unfulfilled, panicked and hopeless. And why? Because of a lack of meaningful activity? Because of a refusal to fulfill our proper roles in our families, our ministry and our workplace? Not at all. Our lives are saturated and spilling over with “good things” and “good deeds” and most of us, it is safe to say, still feel like we never do enough.
Is this the way God meant for us to live? Did He really intend for us to sing the words of that song, popular many years ago, “Let me burn out for Thee, dear Lord, burn and wear out for Thee.”
What is a boundary?
The literal definition is “a limiting line.” The boundary of your property or your home, for instance, marks the place where you have control. You can, for instance, decide to put purple flowers on your kitchen table, but you cannot go over to your neighbor’s house, take the yellow roses off her table and replace them with purple flowers. You would be violating her boundaries. In the same manner, your neighbor cannot put purple flowers on your table.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” you say. “I would never do that and I wouldn’t let my neighbor tell me what to do with my kitchen table.” But do you change your plans (or feel guilty about the plans you cannot or do not want to change) when someone tries to tell you how to take care of your family, what color you should wear, how many children you should have, what activities you should attend, what ministry you should be in, etc.?
In the same way that your physical self has boundaries, so does your emotional self. You have a right and a responsibility to protect who you are.
Are boundaries scriptural?
Yes. Read the Scripture at the top of this page. Boundaries are a part of God’s plan for protection for His children–even His daughters.
When ancient conquerors would come into a walled city, the first thing they did was to tear down the walls. The people then felt defenseless and were easier to control. The verse in Proverbs about “ruling your own spirit” does not mean “be strong and stoic and never let your feelings out.” It’s not at all about what you “keep in” but about what you “keep out.”
Consider these two Bible examples:
Moses. Exodus 18. Moses was “wearing away” because of ministering to the people “from morning to evening.” (v. 13-14). His father-in-law, Jethro, observed his need and suggested a plan for better “boundaries.”
The Good Samaritan. Luke 10. He met the wounded man’s need. He went above and beyond what others had done, but he put limits on himself. He left the wounded man at the inn. He provided for him and did what was right, but when the Samaritan had helped, he had to go about his own business. He was then available to help someone else.
The danger in not establishing good boundaries is that you actually limit your ministry capabilities–you do not expand them.
- Good boundary setting will help you forestall bitterness. Hebrews 12:12-15
- Good boundary setting will result in peace and rest. Matthew 11:28-30, Isaiah 30:15
How do you establish boundaries?
- Realize that you have a right to boundaries. Do you not teach these principles to your children? Do you not teach them to respect other people’s property and feelings? Why shouldn’t people respect yours? Even as a member of the body of Christ and as a wife to your husband, you are still an individual person with feelings and desires and needs which are yours and which only you and the Lord know. He cares (Hebrews 4:15 and Psalm 103:13) and so should you.
- Recognize your worth to God and to others. Read (again) Psalm 139. You are precious to God (Isaiah 43:4). His love is unconditional (Jeremiah 31:3). You are a part of His eternal plan. You fulfill a role that no one else can fill. You are worth “taking care of.” If you do not recognize your worth and treat yourself as valuable, you will “burn out” far too soon.
- Resist gently manipulation and control from “draining” people. You do not have to justify yourself to anyone. You do not have to listen (for hours) to gossip, criticism or unwanted advice from anyone. (Philippians 4:8)
There is one Holy Spirit. As child of God, you have the privilege of seeking His guidance and following His leadership and so does every other Christian.
This is America. You have a right to your own opinion and so does every other American.
A final thought: When people resist your boundary setting, empathize with their distress, “I understand that you are sad that I can no longer [whatever],” but do not claim it as your own. They must “own” their feelings, too.
Correct wrong thinking.
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32
“What starts out wrong cannot end up right.” Wrong assumptions can cause many detours and affect many people.
Consider these examples from Scripture.
Jacob. Beginning with Genesis 37, we can read about God’s working in the lives of Jacob and his family to preserve them in the famine which (God knew, but they did not) was soon coming. God used Joseph (and his unwise decision to share his vision) to cause his brothers to be jealous enough to try to get rid of him. They sold Joseph into slavery and took his coat, soiled by the blood of a goat, back to Jacob, who believed their lie. When Jacob saw the coat, he said, “Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces” and “I will go down into my grave unto my son mourning.” (verses 30 & 35) Was this true and did Jacob so end his life? No. See Genesis 48:11–And Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face: and lo, God hath shewed me thy seed.
Haman. In Esther, we read about God’s working in the lives of Esther and Mordecai to preserve the Jews from the wicked plans of Haman. Having done his work, Haman went forth “joyful and with a glad heart.” (Esther 5: 9) However, God kept the king awake one night and when he read in an old book how Mordecai had uncovered a plot to murder him, the king asked Haman what could be done to honor a man “whom the king delighteth to honor.” See Esther 6:6–Now Haman thought in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honour more than to myself?” Haman concocted a great plan for himself and an evil plan for Mordecai, but his “wicked device. . .return[ed] upon his own head.” (Esther 9:25)
Both these men thought they knew the truth and thought they had everything figured out, but they were both wrong–one happily and one tragically. Note also that their wrong thinking affected their families as well. Jacob’s sons watched him grieve for years and Mordecai’s sons were hanged with him.
The only way to correct wrong thinking is to make sure that God is at the center of all your thoughts. Isaiah 26:3–Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee. Think about its sad opposite: Psalm 10:4–The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.
Most of us believe that “God is first” in our lives, but He is not. We think we are “all right” because we “do all the right things,” but when trouble comes, we realize our dependence on God is lacking because we have enthroned someone or something other than Him. Here’s a checklist–it will not explore all the possibilities, but will help you consider.
- Are you at the center of all your thoughts? Do you try to control everything and everyone around you? When you cannot control people, do you compensate by controlling your surroundings? In 1 Chronicles 13, David was doing “a good thing” by bringing the ark back to Jerusalem, but he was not following God’s directions about how to transport it and Uzza followed David’s example in “helping God out” when he reached out to steady the ark when it almost fell. (verse 10). Are you trying to control things that only God can control?
- Is someone else at the center of all your thoughts? Does this person occupy all your thoughts because you love him /her so much? Because you are bitter against him/her? Consider the words of this author:
Though we certainly need each other, no one but God is indispensable. When a conflict with one significant person can bring us to despair, it is possible that we are putting that person on a throne that should only be occupied by God. We should never see one other person as the only source of good in the world. It hurts our spiritual and emotional freedom and our development. Ask yourself: “If the person I can’t hear no from were to die tonight, to whom would I go?” It’s crucial to develop several deep, significant relationships. This allows those in our lives to feel free to say no to us without guilt because we have somewhere else to go.
Abraham put Sarah at the center of his thoughts and Ishmael was born. Genesis 16
Saul put David at the center of his thoughts and lost his own life as well as that of his sons and his soldiers. I Samuel 31
Solomon put his wives at the center of his thoughts and lost his kingdom. I Kings 11
- Is service at the center of your thoughts? Again, we turn to Oswald Chambers:
We have shown our ignorance of Him in the very way we are determined to serve Him. Have I been persecuting Jesus by a zealous determination to serve Him in my own way? If I feel I have done my duty and yet have hurt Him in doing it, I may be sure it was not my duty, because it has not fostered the meek and quiet spirit, but the spirit of self-satisfaction.
Was this Elijah’s problem? In I Kings 19, was it really the Lord God of hosts for whom he was “jealous” and grieving or was it that his expectation of having some peace after the destruction of the prophets of Baal had been disappointed? Did he think his service should have been rewarded in a more positive way than having to run from a mean woman? Elijah presents a classic example of depression and the fact that “doing” is not the cure for everything.
One poet put it this way:
And what is it but fragments of your own self you would discard that you may become free? …if it is a despot you would dethrone, see first that his throne erected within you is destroyed. And if it is a care you would cast off, that care has been chosen by you rather than imposed upon you. And if it is a fear you would dispel, the seat of that fear is in your heart and not in the hand of the feared.