We all have that one thing we turn to when our heart hurts, when our mind is jumbled and weary, and our soul is heavy.
I want to say for me it’s always Jesus. I want to say that when life unravels me, I rest at His feet. But truthfully, last year woke me up with the unhealthy habit of my hiding from God, and I finally got serious about kicking it.
The lesson I will carry with me from 2020 into all the years to come is the beauty of true rest. When life got hard, I would usually find solace in the made-up lives of others. My thing has always been a good story. A compelling drama. A hilarious movie. This was my anesthetic of choice. This is where I’d run and hide and wait for the storm to pass.
A good story can illuminate, stir empathy, bring joy, and ignite wonder. But entertainment for me has usually been about escaping. And while that isn’t inherently a problem – we all need an escape at times, a place for our minds to rest and find enjoyment – my “rest” usually left me feeling cold and guilty, spiraling out of control into days of binging.
Afraid of the Quiet
I would get to the end of the day heavy with care and guilt over all the things I hadn’t done well. I would sit on my couch watching my tv for hours, telling myself “You deserve this after the day you just had. You need to rest.” So I would “rest” until the wee hours of the morning until my eyes were droopy enough to drift easily into sleep. I was afraid of the quiet at the end of the day. Without the constant noise, all the feelings I didn’t know what to do with would catch up with me.
This is not rest.
This is not the rest the psalmist describes when he says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.” (Psalm 23:2-3) There was no refreshing taking place in those hours and days of trying to numb my frustration and quiet my anxious mind. My body may have been quiet, but my soul was writhing, and getting more tired every day I chose to avoid the Lord.
So Many Choices
All those choices ever left me with was regret and a growing coldness toward those around me. It left room for the enemy to drop lies into my thoughts, saying “You’ve avoided God too long. You can’t go to Him with what’s troubling you now. You’re all alone. You’ll just have to live in this misery.”
Because isn’t that always how the enemy operates? With the old bait and switch? He holds out something with a promise it will make you feel better, it will soothe your soul; and when it fails, he reminds you that you’ve failed.
Enough is enough
This last year brought me to the end of myself. I had had enough. It was too much to hold and too much to hide from: the weight of heartbreaking and infuriating headlines, the confusing and restricting COVID guidelines, the weariness of being home full time with a baby and toddler with little reprieve, the constant changes in expectations at work, and the nagging sense of hopeless loneliness.
A Long List
The list of things gnawing at my sanity was longer than it had ever been before, and no amount of binge-watching put my mind at ease. I finally wanted better than numbness. I was ready to fight for the peace I desired. I was ready to admit that losing myself in a good story would never heal the ache in my heart or renew my energy.
After years of praying for peace, but delaying what I needed to do in order to actually experience it, I am in the process of unlearning my habit of numbing my feelings and hiding from God.
Hiding in Him, not from Him
It’s hard and scary to allow yourself to feel your feelings. It doesn’t feel like rest at first. It takes energy and courage to uncover the things you’ve been hiding from. But I’m understanding more and more that God isn’t angry with us for having negative emotions. God isn’t shocked and appalled by our weaknesses and failures. He’s not sick of hearing about our struggles. And the middle part that is raw and unpretty is worth the beauty of a mind and heart at peace.
What’s that thing that comforts you for a moment, but leaves you feeling empty?
What’s that thing that you run to when you’re running away from reality?
The Next Time
The next time you feel like hiding from your hurt instead of facing it with Jesus holding your hand, I encourage you to remember this scripture that I come back to every time I’m tempted to run from God:
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)
I’m learning to be more confident in approaching the throne of God with absolutely everything. I’m getting better at going to Him first and pouring my heart out, knowing that my feelings and weaknesses are safe in His presence.
The Best Thing
When I’m tempted to reach for my phone or the remote as a distraction from the cares of this life, I think, what would be really beneficial right now? If I’m honest with myself, I know the best thing is to face up to whatever is troubling me and bring it to my heavenly Father, knowing that He has always been and always will be faithful in refreshing and restoring my tired soul