One of the biggest challenges for people struggling with anxiety, fear and panic attacks is the issue of rest. It is very hard to find rest for your body, soul and spirit when plagued with adrenaline-pumping fear and anxiety.
Rest is essential for us to function normally and effectively. We need rest to clear our head and to give our body the respite it needs to rejuvenate. There is also a spiritual rest that we can experience that will bring incredible freedom and peace. This rest that God talks about is a deep, soulful, soothing rest that help us live the abundant life Christ died to give us (John 10:10).
Rest for the Body
Physical rest is absolutely essential for us to live life abundantly. Failure to rest will result in stress and confusion. It also triggers your adrenaline glands producing the extra energy needed to compensate for the lack of sleep. We also tend to over caffeinate ourselves when we’re tired and exhausted, which also feeds the stress and sleeplessness.
I used to be an avid coffee drinker, but today I have one cup of tea in the morning and sometimes a glass of iced tea for lunch, but that’s all the caffeine I’ll drink in a day. Stimulants can wreak havoc on an already sensitized nervous system. I recommend tapering off slowly and reduce your caffeine intake to a reasonable level. Also, avoid sugary foods and drinks. The rise and fall in your blood sugar will keep you from being at rest.
I have also found that exercise is wonderful for physical rest. If you have trouble sleeping, then start moving. Last year, I trained all year-long for a half Ironman triathlon, and I finished the race in October of 2010. Those days I trained and exercised, I slept so hard and so peaceful. Exercise is a wonderful, natural way to regulate your sleep.
Rest for the Soul and Spirit
Hebrews 4 goes into a detailed explanation of this other “rest” that we can enter into today. It’s not referring to physical rest but a mental and spiritual rest.
When the children of Israel were rescued our of Egypt, they were sent on a path to the Promised Land. It was a short journey that should have only taken them a few short weeks. But, fear entered their hearts. They saw the land full of giants and danger, and did not believe God’s promise that he would give them the land. So, they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years till everyone died except Joshua and Caleb, the two who believed God.
There’s a very important spiritual principle here. The land was theirs by promise. God had given them this land, but they failed to believe and missed out on the rest that was theirs for the taking. In the same way, according to Hebrews 4, we too have a rest for the soul and spirit that we can enter into with God. This rest comes from the incredible sacrifice Jesus made for us. He fulfilled the law and all its requirements (Matthew 5:17) so that we could rest from striving to please God with our works.
I believe much of the fear and anxiety that people experience today is a result of this wrong belief that we have to do something to please God. We strive and worry and work to make God happy with us, when there’s nothing we can do in our own strength to please God. Nothing. In Christ, we are already pleasing to God in every way possible. Jesus became our sin so that we can become righteous, holy and pleasing to God.
But, it takes faith. We have to believe that righteousness is a gift, freely given to use through grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). We can’t earn it. We can’t work for it. We can’t please God with our effort and strength. As it says in Hebrews 11:6, the only way to please God is to believe.
So, as it says in Hebrews 4:11, “let us do our best to enter that rest.”
Prayer: Father, help me enter into the rest you have for us. Show me how to cease from striving and simply trust you for my salvation.