Summertime is a time to get out of the grind, relax, re-energize and reconnect with family and friends. Vacation can be a time to indulge in the sweet spot of your life’s passions. Does this sound like your vacation? Or do you come back from vacation exhausted and depressed that you have to wait another year for your next one?
Stress is the cause of many life problems. In our culture, most people run at a pace that outstrips their ability for renewal. This eventually leads to some type of major malfunction in life. We need more than an annual vacation. We need to learn how to do what the Psalmist referred to as, “restoring our soul” (Psalm 23:3). The word “restore” means to draw back home, to refresh. The challenge in today’s always-connected world is to learn how to pause and reconnect with God for life restoration.
Hope—He restores my soul
For many, life is a rat race. They feel like rats in a cage running on a wheel going nowhere. Life soon loses meaning once all physical and emotional resources are consumed. When the dreams and life expectations of youth never materialize, anger, discouragement, disillusionment and feelings of failure soon intrude upon the psyche. These are common feelings leading to the great negative of hopelessness. Hopelessness accepts the current reality as “my lot in life.” It causes foggy thinking and a fatalistic outlook of, “I’m forgotten, finished and a failure.”
Vacations are about altering the normal routines of life. This is an excellent strategy for hopelessness. The main thing to change is your focus. Take the focus off the current reality and put it on God. Why focus on God? Because when God is in the picture, there is always hope. Nothing is impossible with God. You can trust that God knows what he is doing and that his plan is better than anything we will come up with. However, we must remember God deals from an eternal perspective. Our life must be seen in the context of God’s redemptive story.
Hebrews 11 mentions some of the great heroes of the faith and all the adversity they faced. In spite of all they went through, they lived by faith until the end of their lives. How did they not lose hope in their suffering? They kept their focus on the heavenly city they were headed to (Hebrews 11:13-16). As Paul said, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NIV).
Dependence—He leads besides still waters
The month of July marks America’s declaration of Independence from England. Our 13 colonies became an independent nation. That spirit of independence characterizes American individualism. Certainly there are strengths to this character attribute, but there are also inherent weaknesses. God made us for relationships and for interdependence. This concept is behind the idea of the church and spiritual gifts. As believers we are told to exercise our gifts to edify one another to spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4:11-13).
A spirit of independence from God is at the root of all sin. Many of the life stressors we struggle with are designed by God to teach us to depend upon him rather than ourselves. Each of us has limited resources and abilities. There are some things we cannot handle on our own and, eventually, an event will come into our lives and teach us this. God leads us beside the still waters so we can realize our need for him. Without God, we are nothing—realizing this is the beginning of humility and a life of rest.
Unplugged—He makes me lie down in green pastures
With modern technology, we are wired and plugged in 24/7. This has greatly increased our work productivity. However, it has also stressed us to the max. For many, it has become an addiction. They cannot unplug from their technology without going through withdrawals. Unfortunately, with all this business, we have lost the ability to hear the still small voice of God. Hearing God’s voice is critical to restoring the soul. The green pastures are where the spirit is fed by God’s truth. To find rest, we must discipline ourselves to meet God in his Word on a regular basis.
This is a simple, but very profitable, life discipline. God is so committed to our spiritual wellness that if we will not take the time to do this, he is able to make us lie down and listen. If your current lifestyle is failing to provide you with rest and spiritual renewal, don’t wait for a major meltdown to make a change. Determine this summer to unplug and enjoy God—the pause that refreshes.
Dr. John Hawkins, along with his son, John Jr., runs Gateway Counseling Center in Boynton Beach. He can be reached by visiting gatewaycounseling.com.