Monday, March 22, 2010

Four Types of Rest and How to Attain Them

I spent Spring Break on two separate camping trips. The first was a tent camping kayak trip on the Colorado River with some male friends. It was body odor and testosterone with some trail mix and fishing poles thrown in. Then after two days back at the office, I went with my wife, daughter, and her friend, to a family camp ground called Jellystone Park, themed after the famed residence of Yogi Bear. While on the latter trip, I realized how much I needed, not only to sleep, but to slow down. Not only did I sleep later than normal, but I also went to bed earlier, and even took a nap in the afternoon. My life is usually pretty connected and I'm always contemplating the "next item on my list". But this week, I realized how good it was to turn everything off. Then Sunday morning, in Sunday School, we talked about how God rested on the 7th day and how important that rest is. As we talked I realized there are different kinds of rests that allow us to recuperate from different kinds of stress.

Physical--The most commonly addressed form of stress is physical stress because our body has a natural response to it-sleep. When we've been awake for too long or aren't getting enough sleep, our eyelids get heavy and our responses to stimuli start to slow down. If we are not in a position to go to bed or take a nap, we will remedy the situation by visiting the coffee pot or some new energy drink. But even if we are getting sleep, we may not be getting enough sleep. It's good to have time where we can clear our minds and our schedules of our commitments and let our bodies catch up to our busy schedules.

Mental--While our bodies can have physical rest, our minds do not rest while we sleep. Have you ever had a dream about something in your life that was stressing you out? Maybe a work deadline, or a job interview? Mental stress is more prevalent now because we have so much more stimuli going into our brains. Thanks to the smart phone, many of us are carrying the internet around in our pocket so literally our entire waking hours are spent connected to the rest of the world, following our favorite feeds on Twitter or keeping up with our friends on Facebook. It is good to let our minds rest from all of that. I recommend taking a media fast periodically. While on my kayak trip with my friends we had no cell service where we were. I was delighted to know that the world kept turning even though, I was out of touch. And all this is on top of stresses from work and family life (or even the stress to sit down and watch our favorite TV show). Sometimes we just need to shut everything off and let our brains rest. I shared with my youth that this included even giving up video games for a time.

Emotional--Emotional rest can be one of the most difficult to acquire. Emotional stress comes through getting away from the things that stress us out emotionally. Emotional stressors are often found in our relationships. Unless these are unhealthy or ungodly relationships, we can not and should not permanently abandon these relationships. However, it is good to get away from things that provide sources of emotional stress for a short time. This can even be getting away from our spouse, our children, other family members, or friends that we may spend too much time with. Often getting away from the emotional stress of our lives gives us a deeper appreciation for the relationships in our lives and we can return to those relationships with a fresh perspective.

Spiritual--God made us to be spiritual beings. We see that in Genesis 1 and throughout the rest of the Bible. Therefore, I believe humans are prone to spiritual stress and need to find times of spiritual rest. In Matthew 14, Jesus makes a couple of attempts at getting away by himself to pray. John the Baptist had just been beheaded and Jesus wanted to spend time in prayer. His attempt at solidarity was usurped by a mob of people wanting him to heal their sick. Prayer and time alone was Christ's source of spiritual rest. He cast his burdens on his Father, then he went back to taking care of his disciples as their boat was caught in the storm and he walked out to them. I think being the spiritual creatures that we are, we have spiritual stress in our lives that is brought about by circumstances beyond our control, or through choices we make. Some of these choices are sinful, and others are made with good intentions but just don't pan out right. Philippians 4:6-7 says that we should not be anxious (spiritual and emotional stress) about anything, but through prayer and petition we should submit our requests to God. Then the peace that transcends all understanding will guard our hearts in Christ Jesus. Prayer, study of scripture, and worship attendance are all things God has given us to deal with spiritual stress and to find that rest our souls need.

How do you deal with stress in your life? What do you do to find rest?

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