He restores my soul
Despite the relative prosperity in the western world, with labour-saving gadgets, paid holidays and shorter working hours than our ancestors, stress is a huge health issue in our society. In 2015/16 nearly half a million cases of work-related stress were diagnosed in the UK, in addition to stress arising from financial pressures (experienced by 67% of the population), relationship problems and other personal issues. It seems that in any one year, one quarter of the British population will experience a mental health problem, anxiety and depression being the most common, with a similar pattern, or worse, being found in other western countries.
People are in desperate need of an answer.
And sometimes it is no better in church circles; dedication to the Lord is frequently measured by commitment to church programmes (wherever did we get that idea?), and sadly, burnt-out (and disillusioned) Christians can be found in every city. We were called, however, to the long haul, not a short sprint. If we really are to run the course laid out for us, we need to invest in a more healthy rhythm of living.
The answer to stress is rest; one of the great themes of Scripture (and the focus of this website). Biblical rest is all about laying down our own efforts and finding that place of trust and peace in the Lord’s provision – in all its aspects. It’s not the rest of inactivity, (although sometimes it includes that), but the cessation of toil, the striving to produce or perform. Our life in God is one which is supposed to well up from within, the natural consequence of the Spirit living in us, rather than from pressure exerted on us from outside.
The still waters described in this verse of Psalm 23 denote ‘a resting place’ in Hebrew. And Jesus’ invitation to us is to step aside with Him into that resting place:
Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
[Matthew 11: 28-30 The Message Translation]
And it’s not surprising that in the imagery of this Psalm the resting place is by water. Water in the Bible is continually pictured as therapeutic and life-giving, the means to cleansing, refreshment, restoration, healing and Life. This period before Easter was traditionally one in which new Christians prepared for baptism; one of the things we can do as we rest with the Lord during this season, is to meditate on this hugely significant and powerful step on our Christian journey.
And with the lengthening days of spring, (ok, so it’s snowing at the moment....) perhaps we can also actually get outside to the water’s edge, whether it be sea shore, lake, canal, river or pond, and meet the Lord there. Over the last few years environmental psychologists have been exploring the proposition that being in and around water is good for both our stress levels and creative processes. (I think David came to that conclusion a long time ago!) and I came across an interesting book, ‘Blue Mind’ by marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols on the remarkable effects of water on our health and well-being (details below*).
So let's take opportunity to enjoy the therapeutic effects of Creation, let's meet with the Lord who longs to refresh and restore us. And let's align ourselves with God's truth by declaring it over ourselves, (see previous posts in this series).....
Jesus has the perfect answer to the stress I'm experiencing.
He talks to me in the quietness of my heart.
If I come to Him, I will be refreshed and restored.
Jesus will teach me how to truly rest.
He does not lay heavy burdens on me.
I will learn to live freely and lightly.
Most readers seem to prefer to get in touch direct, using the 'Get in Touch!' buttons. However, one or two people have recently indicated they would like the facility to publicly comment under posts, so I have re-opened the public comment option - please feel free to add your thoughts.
The private 'Get in Touch!' option remains the same - please do, I love hearing from people......
* I haven't read this book, but it's on my list......
'BLUE MIND' is described as "A landmark book by marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols on the remarkable effects of water on our health and well-being.....
Combining cutting-edge neuroscience with compelling personal stories from top athletes, leading scientists, military veterans, and gifted artists, Nichols shows how proximity to water can improve performance, increase calm, diminish anxiety, and increase professional success."
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