Not long ago, I lay awake in bed asking God why I couldn't sleep. No definitive answers came, so I silently prayed as Matthew 11:28 ran back and forth across the corners of my mind. "You promise me rest," I anxiously reminded Jesus. Still, sleep seemed to evade me. "What? Am I not trusting You or releasing my burdens?" I asked Him in frustration. His answer was shocking. "You're barely breathing," He gently whispered. With that, I opened my mouth and let out a breath that I didn't even know I was holding. Upon expiration I felt my chest wall lower by what seemed to be at least two inches. Though I thought it odd that I had literally been "barely breathing," I began thinking back to previous sleepless nights. Was I forgetting to exhale on those nights as well? Hmm...I made a mental note to pay closer attention in the future. "Must breathe," I sleepily instructed myself. With that, I thanked Jesus for His counsel and drifted off to sleep. It has been since that night that I've begun to take note of how frequently the natural act of breathing in my own life seems to take long breaks after inspiration. Somewhere along the way of each day, I often allow my breathing cycle's expiration component a long and unnecessary break. What is it I'm doing when I'm forgetting to exhale? What are any of us doing?
Two days ago when I started this entry, I didn't have the answer to my own question. Earlier this evening as I listened to Jaci Velasquez sing Un Lugar Celestial into my iPod, I rode my bike around a block of our neighborhood and as I breathed in the crisp, cool air my mind met with memories of my past and visions of my future. It was then that I realized what I'm doing when I'm barely breathing..I'm either thinking of things that have already passed or busying my mind with things yet to come. Ever catch yourself doing this? I become so engrossed that I actually forget to fully breathe. "It's your age. My mind used to do that too when I was in my thirties," my husband who is 20 years older jokingly explained. Well, that may very well be true, but it's also true that Jesus promises me peace irrespective of age. In Isaiah 26:3-4, we are told the following:
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast , because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.
God doesn't say that He will keep in peace only those who are past the age of 30. He promises peace to all whose minds stay fixed upon Him and trust in Him. Sounds easy enough, right? But, how much easier is it to let our minds wander over tomorrow's to-do list, next month's travel schedule, or yesterday's mistakes? We're so busy being busy that we forget to focus on what really matters - Him. I tried to recount to my husband one time what it is that I lay awake thinking about for so long at night. "I don't really know," I answered in awe. "Well, then why does it take you two hours to fall asleep?" he and I have both asked. Again, I've responded with a dumbfounded "I dunno." How is that even possible? How can I lay awake for two hours and later be unable to recall what thoughts kept me awake? Shouldn't I be able to quickly retrieve them if they were of importance?
That's just it - they aren't important, and if they don't even pertain to God, then they're definitely a waste of my mental space! So, how do we stop the traffic running through our head? His Word is pretty direct in its prescriptions. I went to the doctor not long ago for headaches. At the end of our visit, I was prescribed a medication for migraines. All I had to do was go downstairs to the pharmacy, check in, and pick it up when my name was called. Within the same day I could go home with an answer to my pain. God's Word is no different, yet we pick up the prescription without reading the directions. For instance, in the above scripture, it's easy to focus only on the first segment - You will keep him in perfect peace. "Hallelujah, God is going to give me peace!" we rejoice. However, with every remedy must come an action. I wouldn't go home, take medicine for a migraine, and then go dirt bike racing. No, I would probably dim the lights, lay down in a quiet room, and try to rest while the medicine worked through my body. Similarly, you wouldn't enter a race and expect to win if you only stood on the sidelines and watched the other runners. You would be on the track running for your life! So, why is it that when it comes to God and the blessings He offers, we want His blessings without having to follow His instructions on how to receive them?
Peace is an awesome gift from God, but one that requires complete trust in Him. "Well, I trust God and I don't have peace," you might say. Well, then you're not trusting Him completely. Take a closer look into your circumstances and you'll find an area where you're still trying to maintain control. If you're still clinging to your own control over situations and people, then you're not trusting in God. Let go of the need to control everything because you'll never know true peace until you do. "Well, if it's a gift, then it shouldn't require anything on my part," others might say. Well, I can't argue with that because I wouldn't give someone a Christmas present and require them to do 100 push ups before I gave it to them, but what I can say is this-- when God requires us to do something like "trust" in Him in order to have fullness of peace - we're not trusting in Him to meet some requirement; Our trust in Him is just another of His gifts to us. Of what benefit is it to the God of the universe if I trust in Him? He doesn't need my trust; I need my trust in Him. Trusting in Him is what makes me grow and change. It's to my benefit and gain to trust in Him.
So, the next time your mind is flooded with thoughts of the past or visions for your future, stop for a minute and redirect your eyes to Him. Don't get so focused in on things that really don't matter and find yourself barely breathing. Exhale, and look up. Is it easy to put full and complete trust in Him? No, not always, and He never said it would be. On the contrary, it's one of the most challenging things we're asked to do when things aren't going how we plan. But -- He is the God of the universe and creator of all mankind. He made you and He made me. I trust that. I trust Him.
Get your mind off of you and onto Him! Pursue peace by trusting in Him more and more each day!
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6
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