It was about 15 years ago (over a pile of tangled hangers!) that Jenny Donnelly realized that life had become “too much”. Simple life tasks, like putting away a pile of tangled hangers, led to tears. Why did simple life tasks feel so hard? Some would describe her as having anxiety or even experiencing bouts of depression, but she believed there was no way she could be one of “those people” struggling to cope with everyday life. She was doing all the “right” things. She read her Bible regularly. Prayed. Exercised. Was a successful businesswoman. Loved her husband. Loved her kids. But after examining her heart, she realized that stress and anxiety were her “go-to” fuel. God revealed to her there was a way to live in a state of rest, even when life was swirling around her. Today, she shares with us how she found rest as a permanent place to live and the gift of being still even in the middle of chaos. It’s a grace to welcome Jenny to the farm’s front porch today…
My daughter Esther pulled a children’s book off the shelf and began to read it aloud. From the kitchen, I overheard something like this:
Make your bed! Hurry up! Hurry up!
Eat your cereal! Hurry up! Hurry up!
Run to school! Hurry up! Hurry up!
I made a beeline for the living room and snatched the book out of her hands.
As a recovering hurry-upper, I didn’t want my kids to fall into that habit.
The book conveys an innocent idea and is rather descriptive of how most families live.
Is it any wonder we are more anxious than any other generation that has come before us? We are living in a world that screams, “Hurry up! Hurry up!”
This revs our mental engines, and we blow past our lives. Hours turn to years, and suddenly we realize that we have hurried our way through life so much that we have missed most of it.
The other day I caught myself in the act of hurrying for the sake of hurrying.
I didn’t look like I was in a hurry, but my thoughts were badgering me forward for no good reason. I realized I hurry because I feel like that’s what I’m supposed to do—rush off to the next thing.
As a culture, we are in a hurry. Fast food isn’t fast enough. High speed internet isn’t speedy enough. Has being in a hurry become our normal?
A few years ago, I was confronted with my hurry-up habit.
What I have discovered is that I build the hurry-up habit subconsciously during those times when I am stressed or overwhelmed with all I need to accomplish in what seems like too little time. Am I suggesting we lollygag through life? No way! There is a lot to accomplish in a day.
But I can tell you that you can move with speed and productivity without a frazzled mind—which absolutely steals our rest.
Rest means that we are resting in what is happening right this second with a complete trust that God will meet us in our next moment.
Living in worry will steal your REST.
Have you ever been so nervous about an upcoming event that you played the potential scenarios over and over in your mind? This is especially common if you’re embarking on something new or if you don’t like unknowns (most of us don’t!)
The first time I was invited to speak in public I was so nervous. I was turning the event over and over in my mind, which was keeping my anxiety stirred up. I began to pray that God would help me overcome the worry I was experiencing.
When we mentally obsess about the future and try to live out a moment before we are in it, we anticipate what that moment might feel like without the benefit of the grace of God.
We assume it will be difficult – and we haven’t even done anything yet.
The grace of God we need to do anything in life will be available exactly when we need it. Overanalyzing our lives or letting our imagination run wild will never create peace.
We can let go of turning things over and over in our minds, knowing that God will be there when we get to those things.
We can REST in the right now, even if it’s a moment we don’t want to be in.
We can relax and be, because God Himself is peace and He’s committed to be right there with you in the present!
Rest is where we place great faith in our great God.
We are conditioned to do-ing, so be-ing can be challenging. Like many people, I have a very full life.
But I chose a majority of it. I chose to get married. I chose to have kids. I chose to plant a church. I chose to start a business. I chose to write a book.
I know that people settle for being stressed, anxious, depressed, worried, and alone. They write off their dreams as childish or insignificant.
But Jesus came to give us life and life more abundantly (John 10:10). He came to give us joy. He came to give us peace and rest.
Stress, depression, anxiety, unrest—these are all products of not understanding who Jesus is to us.
Jesus said that if we have heavy loads, burdens weighing us down, we can come to Him and He will give rest to our souls. That’s a promise! “Come next to me all you weary, picking up your loads: I am your oasis” (Matt. 11:28).
When we are in our resting place, we aren’t ignoring our responsibilities, challenges, and projects and just checking out for the sake of peace. No, Jesus calls us to sit next to Him and bring our burdens with us.
And here is the best part: He is our oasis.
An oasis? This is so exciting! An oasis is a fertile place in the middle of a desert. Are you getting this?
Jesus is basically saying that he is a fertile place in the middle of our dry places. Fertility is what we want.
We want things to multiply, grow, break through, and explode in our favor. We want relationships, jobs, projects, and responsibilities to flourish with fruit and goodness. This is what happens in an oasis. In a desert, they shrivel up.
As you align with His presence and love, it becomes a place where burdens lighten, and the oasis of rest creates an environment of fertility where your life assignments can flourish, multiply, and grow.
Bearing our own loads can leave us feeling as if we are dragging them through a desert.
But Jesus is the oasis providing life in the middle of a dry place.
Discover the resting place God designed for you.
Jenny L. Donnelly is an author, speaker, and business leader. She is the founder of Her Voice Movement, a national community gathered for the purpose of equipping and empowering women to live and lead biblical truth. She is a cofounder, with her husband, of The Collective Church in Portland, Oregon. They also founded Tetelestai Ministries, which develops and equips biblical leaders through online courses, conferences, and resources.
In Still: 7 Ways to Find Calm in the Chaos, Jenny Donnelly shows you how to experience true, life-giving rest even in the midst of chaos. Sharing her own personal story of struggling with life’s pressures and emotional exhaustion, she introduces you to the source of peace and rest: Jesus. She shows you the steps to take to access rest any time, any place, under any conditions. And she reveals how operating from a place of stillness powers your identity, creativity, relationships, and so much more.
[ Our humble thanks to Baker for their partnership in today’s devotion ]