Ride 15 – Rest

Opening Prayer and Reading: 

pan-dem-ic: occurring over a wide geographic area and affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population.

The word itself generates fear, uncertainty, and insecurity. Pandemic … the word feels global. Uncontrollable. Uncontainable. Chaotic. And always present. Turn on the news – there it is. Scroll social media – there it is. Engage in conversation with a friend or family member – there it is. Run by Chick-fil-a to grab some heavenly goodness – There. It. Is. Always lurking. We can’t get away from it. 

And it is in these seasons we are tempted … we are tempted to take our gaze from the Creator and to focus on the brokenness of the creation. 

Psalm 46 offers a different perspective: 

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.

The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.

The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth.

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.

“Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth!” The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (ESV)

Psalm 46 speaks of a God who is sovereign and in control … who is constant even in the chaos. And we are invited by the Psalmist to come & behold (gaze deeply upon) this unchanging God. We are invited amid the confusion and commotion and disorder to pause and to be still and to know that He is God. And that He will be exalted. 

In addition, this sovereign Creator God is withus.  He is our refuge. He is our strength. He is our fortress. He is our present help in trouble.  God is near. He is not removed or confused. He is sovereign. He is never caught off guard. He is never unsure what to do or how to react. He is the God who is in complete control even if the earth crumbles and the mountains are tossed into the seas. And we are His people. He chose us to be His children. We are loved and protected by Him. We are secure in Him. We are safe in His eternal care. The brokenness is vying for your attention. The chaos wants to distract you. Uncertainty is calling your name. Fear is pursuing you. The brokenness screams loudly.

And in the middle of the storm Jesus echoes Psalm 46: “Peace! Be still.” As the storm rages, He invites us into stillness – to fix our eyes on the Creator who is sovereign over the pandemics of the creation and who is near. Be still and know that He is God. Selah. (Devin Hudson, Teaching Pastor, City Church, Decatur, Alabama)

Bible Verses for the Day

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8 (NIV)

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.’” Psalm 91:1-2 (NIV)

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30 (NIV)

Devotional: 

I’ve seen my share of medical professionals since being diagnosed with COVID. I’ve seen my own practitioner, the infectious disease doctor, a few nurse practitioners at testing sites, and several nurses either by teleconference appointment or in office. I’ve consulted with friends who are medical experts (legitimate medical experts with degrees and certifications, not the social media “medical experts”). I’ve called on our pediatrician and several on-call children’s practitioners. Each one has told me the same thing: “Get some rest.” 

Ah, yes, rest. What I should be doing. But can’t. There’s no rest for the weary. 

When I was sick, the fatigue was real. Just walking to the kitchen warranted a nap. There were days that I struggled to get into the shower, to keep my head up, to keep my eyes open. There was one day in particular that I prayed to God to help me put one foot in front of the other just to make it back to our guest room, where I was isolating until I got my test results back. 

My respiratory symptoms weren’t my worst symptoms, but there was one night in particular that I laid in bed and felt like there wasn’t enough oxygen in the room. I checked my blood oxygen levels every few minutes and did some deep breathing exercises until I felt comfortable again. I let Blake know what was going on so he could monitor me. Then I slept on my stomach, which is what I heard that many respiratory therapists were telling their patients to do. (Note: None of what I did that night was scientific and it was definitely not recommended to me by a medical professional. I do not advise you to do any of that, or treat yourself, if you are having trouble breathing. Call your doctor. I am not a doctor and you should not infer anything from my blog posts as medical advice. If my breathing had remained uncomfortable for me that night, I had planned to go to the hospital immediately.)

I was exhausted from fighting COVID, but I was also exhausted from worry and fear. I was far less worried about myself than I was about my son and everyone else in my family. I was weary and weak, but every time I tried to rest, I couldn’t, either because I was worried for my son, for my family, for myself, or I was just physically tired from fighting COVID. 

“Get some rest” was easier said than done. 

You may have noticed that I have taken a few breaks in writing since we were released from isolation. It’s mostly because I’ve been trying to rest. Isolation is hard and when you get out, you’ll need to rest too. When you’re sick, you’re fighting for your physical health to improve. On top of that, you’re fighting a mental battle with fear, loneliness, blame and shame, the absence of socialization, and that takes its toll on you physically as well. 

I also needed rest from the constant barrage of news. Apparently the world turned upside down during the month of June and I’m almost thankful I missed it. When I would turn on the television or look at social media, it was shocking to see neighbor pitted against neighbor and hatred spewing out of someone I would have thought kind and thoughtful back in May. Don’t even get me started on the articles about COVID that people shared with me nonstop. I love that people thought of me, and I one hundred percent believe that every article sent to me was sent out of love and concern, but seeing my fears printed on a screen was not good for my mental health. I desperately desired rest. 

As I’ve been resting this week, I have also been very slow and methodical about doing things at home. Our yard is a mess. My house is unorganized. (Way more than normal, as we had to adjust within our home to figure out the “how” piece of isolation and now it needs to be put back the way it was.) I’ve just not had the energy to charge forward like I normally do. I’ve taken several naps on the couch and watched a lot of movies with my family. I’ve given myself grace and taken a lot of deep breaths. I’ve been resting. 

Having COVID, taking care of someone with COVID, worrying about a friend or family member that has COVID, is all very traumatic. Everyone talks about the trauma involved with actually having COVID, but I’ve had several friends and family members say they have felt the trauma with us. I know they are being truthful because I saw my neighbor’s eyes well up with tears when she stopped to talk to me from her car when I was playing with my kids in the yard. I saw actual relief on another friend’s face. She had stopped by several times to talk to us through the window while we were sick and each time, she looked as if she was getting less and less sleep. When she came by after we’d been released from isolation, I could see the relief in her eyes. COVID is traumatizing. Even if you are just hearing about it day in and day out on the news. It’s traumatizing. You need rest no matter how it has affected you. 

God promises you rest in the Bible. He promises peace, stillness, and calm. He even demonstrated it to us by resting on the seventh day of Creation. The Old Testament called for rest on the Sabbath. And God sent us his only Son so that we could rest in our faith on His promise. Rest is important to God. It should also be important to you.

I believe that it’s carryover from nightly rituals my parents established for me when I was a little girl, but even as an adult, I cannot go to sleep without saying a prayer. Sometimes when I’m at a loss for words, I still recite the bedtime prayer I said as a child. “Now I lay me down to sleep….” Talking to God brings stillness to my body, calm to my mind, and peace in my heart. He prepares me so that I can rest. 

If you’re weary from COVID, you need rest. You may be in the fight of your life. You need rest. You may be scurrying around, trying to reorganize your home as quickly as possible, so that someone can safely isolate within its walls. You need rest. You may be glued to the news or the State dashboard, counting numbers and calculating rates and percentages for your area. You need rest. You may be a teacher worried about what a new school year holds for you. You need rest. You may be a healthcare worker or front line worker who’s been giving 110% for the past four months with no breaks. You need rest. 

Whenever I’m weary, I hum a hymn that I’ve been singing my whole life. Specifically when I’m so broken down I can barely move, I will just sing one line, “And I will give you rest.” I hope you find rest. If you’re looking for it, I know where you can find it….

You shall cross the barren desert but you shall not die of thirst
You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way
You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand
You shall see the face of God and live

Be not afraid, I go before you always
Come follow me and I’ll give you rest

If you pass through raging waters in the sea you shall not drown
If you walk amidst the burning flames you shall not be harmed
If you stand before the power of hell and death is at your side
Know that I am with you through it all

Be not afraid, I go before you always
Come follow me and I’ll give you rest
Be not afraid, I go before you always
Come follow me and I will give you rest

Blessed are the poor, for the Kingdom shall be theirs
Blessed are you that weep and mourn for one day you shall laugh
And if wicked men insult and hate you all because of me
Blessed, blessed are you

Be not afraid, I go before you always
Come follow me and I will give you rest
Be not afraid, I go before you always
Come follow me and I will give you rest

Be not afraid, I go before you always
Come follow me and I will give you rest
And I will give you rest, and I will give you rest
And I will give you rest, and I will give you rest
And I will give you rest

(Bob Dufford, SJ: 1975)

Tips from a weary mama: 

Get some rest. No seriously, get some rest. It’s okay to rest. It doesn’t matter if you’re the upstairs parent, the downstairs parent, the patient, the doctor, the friend, the mom, the dad, the son, the daughter, the sister, the brother, the neighbor, the delivery person. It’s okay to rest. Give yourself grace and permission to rest. 

Journal: 

Google “Be Not Afraid” the song I posted written by Bob Dufford, SJ in 1975. Listen to it and read about why he wrote that song. Have you ever sung it before? Do you ever hum it like I do? 

Closing Prayer: 

Sovereign Father, You are the Alpha and Omega, Creator, Healer, and Everlasting God. Remind me daily of your mighty power. Pour your strength into me so I can live for you, especially in times of exhaustion, sickness, and frustration. Help me stay focused on you every minute of every day because you promise to give rest to the weary and to be with me every step of the way. Grow my faith through my struggles and recharge me through you. I trust you in every season of my life. In Jesus name, Amen. (Ashley Collins, Decatur, Alabama)

Footnotes:

I think we are all weary right now. Another time in my life that I’ve been weary was after having my daughter. She had health issues related to allergies. Basically she was allergic to everything I ate and I had to completely overhaul my diet while doctors tried to figure out what was causing her reactions. I had to nurse her through it because even hypoallergenic prescription formula was not an option to our situation. I was tired and weary from such a restrictive diet and the stress of ensuring she was fed and safe. I was broken and struggling, so I joined a Bible study at another church (actually I joined two Bible studies at two different churches during my maternity leave). Two women who showed me love, kindness, and compassion during this time in my life contributed to this post. The opening prayer and reading was contributed by the husband of my sweet friend Ashley Hudson and the closing prayer was contributed by another sweet friend Ashley Collins. When I look back on my struggles during that season of my life, those two women were on the life boat that must have been sent by Jesus himself in the middle of my storm. I will forever be thankful.

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