The famous comedian, Woody Allen, quips that "eighty percent of success is showing up." I'm not sure about the numbers, but I do think there's some truth in this. Ask any pastor and you will find that one of their primary concerns is how to keep people coming back to church, week after week, when most people simply crave "down time" on the weekends. We are tired, world-weary, and longing for rest. How do we find the energy to "show up" when we feel like there is nothing left to give?
Matthew's gospel reads:
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
I don't know about you, but I sometimes feel overwhelmed by life's challenges. Work, relationships, children, financial struggles, and health issues all conspire against me to wear me down - and that's just the "natural" stuff! As a believer, I have an extra challenge: Satan adds pressure to these natural situations to try to divide and conquer. Real rest can feel very far away.
Like Woody Allen, Jesus says that what makes for a successful life also makes for a successful Christian. He teaches that believers are called to show up for two things: fellowship with God and fellowship with people. When we do this, we have peace. When we're absent from either of these places emotionally or physically, things start to unravel spiritually. We aren't made to do life alone.
Rest in Relationship
In order for life to feel "easy" again, I take time out to "show up" in the Presence of God. I have a tendency to carry a lot of heavy burdens by myself - all at once! If I do not come to Jesus and ask for His help, I will not find rest; I will keep working until I crash.
But that's not the end of the story. Jesus requires weary ones to come back into relationship with each other, too. We are called to bear one another's burdens, not carry them alone (Galatians 6:2). Mutual concern builds personal endurance.
I have learned from experience that a believer can be spiritually savvy but relationally deficient. If the enemy can't stop us from coming to God, he will certainly try to stop us from connecting with people! There are plenty of spiritual needs around us to keep us busy working till Kingdom come. The lie Satan uses is that our service is more important than our relationships. You can have a heart for God but still shut others out. It's a dangerous imbalance.
So how do we "show up" for people - especially when we're overwhelmed, fearful, or even hurt? Honesty is still the best policy. Honesty admits - to God or to others - that I can't do life alone. Honesty asks for help. Honesty banishes the pride and self-deception which tell me that I can do it better myself, or that others are not "trustworthy" enough to handle things. Honesty both requires and leads to humility.
We have got to be truthful - real - with each other, in a spirit of love and kindness. As I am honest with others I build more than just relationships: I build the Kingdom of God. When I share my insecurities or expose the lies that I believe, I find that others share pieces of truth that are essential for growth. I appreciate more of the value and worth in others. This leads me, automatically, into the kind of humility that serves out of love, not pride or obligation. Stronger connections of the heart result in greater growth for the Kingdom:
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor.
Don't Be Deceived
Being real isn't easy when the enemy is messing with our relationships, distorting the truth. We are tempted to stop connecting when we fear we will be hurt again, or because we doubt that the other person will ever change. Self-protection closes the door to our hearts and makes us feel "safe." The trouble is, self-protection also closes the door to Kingdom growth.
Relationship is so important to Jesus that He preaches repeatedly on the issues of forgiveness, love, honor, selflessness, and concern for one's neighbors. In practice, however, I quickly realize that I can not truly put the interests of others above myself until I get rid of self-deception. James 3:14 tells me that when I harbor pride or envy in my heart, I lie against the truth. Self-deception is, in one word, demonic (James 3:15).
Here's what the Lord said to me once about the instability inherent in these fears:
"Fear has no place in a believer. All fear is based on deception, and bears little resemblance to the truth. The only way to overcome fear is to get above it, and the only way to get above your situation is to come up higher with Me.
"If you cannot see as I see, you will see and believe only the partial truths that the enemy shows you. Don't allow him to deal you a bad hand from a stacked deck! All the fullness of truth lives in Me. Without Me you are resigned to a life of fear and doubt, always wondering when your "luck" will run out. IN ME you have the certainty of always holding a good hand - being above only and never beneath! Your "luck" does not run out with Me; your blessings only increase as you grow up into maturity in all things. Transfer your thinking from unstable fear to certain life. I really am that good!"
I have heard several times from the Lord and others recently that it is time to "come up higher." Heaven's perspective is critical for us now! We must immediately recognize the lies of the enemy, especially within our own hearts. If we don't take the time to get above our lives through prayer, we will not see the subtle ways the enemy is working within them. The catch: going higher spiritually means going lower as we embrace humility and restore relationships.
In this time of frenzied busyness, increased strife, and near-constant weariness, I encourage you to take Jesus's advice and show up honestly in the Presence of God and in the friendships you have around you. Slow down to the speed of relationship, no matter what it seems to cost you in terms of accomplishment. Live life at the speed of love, with both God and the people around you. Enter into His rest!
c. Deborah Perkins, His Inscriptions.com
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Deborah Perkins is the founder of His Inscriptions and the author of How to Inherit Your Spiritual Promises: 5 Steps to Success and The 2016 Guide to Corporate Prayer. She lives in New England with her husband, three children, and eight chickens. Since her tiny home is too small for larger gatherings, she created this site as a place where she could entertain friends more freely. She also blogs for Bible Gateway, Tyndale House Publishing, and BibleVerses.com. Join her daily here or on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.