Life is full of stress. Along with the external stressors of bills, project deadlines, and job requirements, life has an assortment of internal stressors as well. They happen as a result of the pressure we feel in our own heart and mind. We may not be able to always control the external stressors, but there is a way to greater peace from the things that stress us inwardly. To hearts and minds that are filled with anxiety, fear, worry, doubt, and tension, Jesus offers hope.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
Jesus offers a rest beyond anything this world has to offer. No amount of serene landscapes, meditation, peaceful music, medicine, or drink can bring the kind of rest that we all genuinely long for. He offers a love that releases us from the pressure to have to be perfect. He offers forgiveness for what haunts us from our past. And He demands nothing in return. That’s right. There’s no catch, no demands to have to measure up to the love He gives, no expectation to live perfectly afterwards.
Instead, He offers a place of rest in a love that lavishes us with favor. The Bible calls this lavishing love, grace. The Bible calls the right response to that grace, faith. The right response to being overwhelmingly loved is in accepting the depth of that love and ending the pressure to perform, measure-up, pay-off, or impress. God has been pleased by the life and death of Jesus Christ. By taking in that love by faith only and not by our efforts, we too experience being made pleasing. It’s the end of the war! The battle is over!
When this awareness of peace settles deep in our heart, then we are radically changed. We find an overwhelming rest that begins to spill over into every part of our life!
From time to time we may be tempted to slip back into the old way of thinking. We may be tempted and drawn away from the truth that in Christ we are accepted, forgiven, clean, and free from having to appease an angry God. Some of the symptoms of slipping back into the old way of thinking include:
1. I worry about what others think of me
The wonder of grace is that because of Christ, I am accepted by God! I no longer have to live in fear of what He thinks! I no longer have to wonder what He thinks about me! It fills the longing and need inside to be loved. This is now my identity! When I am drawn away from this reality, then I begin to look to others for approval, acceptance, and my identity. I find myself consumed with what others think of me. I eventually even change who I am and what I do for the sake of others. I become enslaved to worry over what others think. The love of Christ invites me to a place of rest from all the worry. He invites me to His rest.
2. I find it difficult to say “no”
When our hearts are driven to never disappoint, never fail, never anger others, we find ourselves trapped and never able to say “no”. We’ve allowed ourselves to think that we have to always say, “yes”; have to always sacrifice; have to always do what others ask. There’s nothing wrong with doing those things, but they are worth little to us and others if we do them because we think we “have to”. The assumption is often that if we say “no” then something bad will happen, that something will go wrong, that we will be disappointing God. We return once again to the cross and there find we have been made pleasing and that there is no disappointment with the Father. There is no heavy hand over us. There are no threats. There is no fear. We can be free in this love and be free to say, “no”.
3. If I do it, it has to be perfect
Most people like to do a good job. Some are driven with a compulsion to not just do a good job, but that what they do has to be perfect. Their identity is wrapped up in their performance. They think that to do less than perfect is to be less than perfect. They think that who they are will be determined by the job they do. This may be true on the job and in school, but it is not true when it comes to our relationship with God. Jesus’ death frees us from the pressure to have to be perfect. His resurrection gives us the standing of perfect. Because of both, our identity is now different. We are not what we do. We are what has been done for us in Christ!
4. I make decisions out of fear
Many Christians make decisions out of fear of what would could happen if they don’t choose a certain option or do a certain behavior. Their decision making process is driven by fear. John wrote in the New Testament and said that “perfect love casts out fear”. He said, “there is no fear in love”. We don’t have to consider the options we face out of fear of what God will think or out of the fear of what could happen if we choose the wrong option. We can think clearly from a basis of peace because we have been loved! There is no condemnation in Christ! We can choose without fear!
5. I have to make sure I’m doing enough
One of the most compulsive thought processes that Christians have is a fear that they are not doing enough. Sadly, churches often reinforce this with their messages of guilt about giving, serving, praying, and reading the Bible. Some teach that we would have greater favor and blessing from God if we would do more. They imbed in their hearts of those that listen a general feeling that they are not yet doing enough. The message of the New Testament is one that says, “It is finished!” There is no more to be done in order to have the favor of God. The fullest blessings of heaven have already been poured out through Christ!
In tomorrow’s blog, we’ll continue with the next 5 ways to know we may not have real peace.
For related blogs, check out:
What Would You Do if You Didn’t “Have to”
What Voices Do You Hear When You Fail?