Spiritual Rest

Escape and rest are not the same thing. Satan offers us escape, but Christ offers us spiritual rest.
by Lorraine E. Espenhain | Source: Catholic.net

"Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." [Mk 6:31].

I was not born with allergies. In fact, I noticed that they came along when I started having children, and continued to worsen when I decided to be a stay-at-home mother. When I made the decision to home school my children, those allergies just mushroomed until I became the coughing, sneezing, and wheezing mess that I am today.

Several months ago, in dire frustration and misery, I blurted out the following words to my doctor, who had just advised me that he believed that stress and anxiety were the cause of people’s allergies. "Get rid of the stress," he advised, "and your allergies will go ‘bye-bye.’"

Truth be told, I hate it when people say, ‘Just get rid of your stress,’ as if this is easily achieved. My doctor picked the wrong day to give me this advice, so I opened my mouth, vented, and proceeded to whine.

"What do you mean, ‘get rid of my stress?’ My workload at home is overwhelming. Every time I complete one task, 10 more crop up to take its place. I just can’t get caught up. There’s always some room that needs to be cleaned, laundry that needs to be done, meals that need to be cooked, bills that need to be paid, and children who need to be educated. It never ends...not even on the weekends! 

Truth be told, Doc, I’m really not enjoying this particular season in my life. There’s no rest for my spirit or my mind. I feel like I live on a treadmill.

I thought that my life would become simplified when I made the decision to abandon my career in order to stay home with my children, but there’s just as much stress in my life now as there was when I was working outside of the home.

Sometime ago, I took my daughter to the library and noticed that the librarian brought in a little white mouse named Socrates for the children to observe. I looked at Socrates running on his wheel, going absolutely nowhere, and wearing himself out in the process, and I saw myself. I actually found myself bonding with Socrates, Doc. Do you know how pathetic it is to bond with a rodent?

Get rid of my stress? I would have to completely abandon all of my responsibilities in order to do as you advise, and that simply is not possible."

There! I had him! I was quite certain that nothing he had received in the way of medical training had prepared him for a patient with such wisdom and understanding. He would search his mind for some lofty clinical response and be unable to find anything. Because of this momentous encounter with me, he would never again foolishly advise any woman to ‘get rid of the stress’ in her life, for I had corrected him and shown him the error of his ways.

His response, however, was quite profound. "It is not your responsibilities and workload that are making you sick; it’s your reaction to them that is causing your stress." I opened my mouth to rebut his statement, but then clamped it shut, as I realized that he was absolutely right.

Life is very stressful, isn’t it? How desperately we need rest, not just physical rest, but rest for our spirit, soul, and mind. But where can we find this rest? Some look for it in drugs and alcohol. Others look for it in adulterous affairs, materialism, or unending recreational activity. But these things aren’t rest; they are only an escape. Escape and rest are not the same thing.

When I was younger, I cannot tell you how many thousands of dollars I had wasted over the years paying for escapes, when all the while, it was spiritual rest  which I so desperately needed. A vacation here. A trip to the shopping mall there. A purchase here, and a purchase there. My credit card debt was unbelievable. In my search for Rest, I came across Escape instead, and I decided to follow him.  All he did, however, was wear me out even more and get me into debt.

I don’t look for escapes anymore, as I have found out the hard way that they are very, very costly in the end.

God is inviting us to enter into His rest. It is a spiritual rest. It is our spirit which so desperately longs for rest, and Christ knows how to give it, if we will simply give Him the chance.

Long ago, Jesus said to His disciples, "Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." [Mk 6:31].  He does not to call us to escape, brothers and sisters. He calls us to rest. Satan offers escape, but Christ offers rest.

The reason why I had allowed myself to become so frazzled and worn out was because in my desire to get caught up, I began to neglect my time with Christ in prayer. I fell into Satan’s trap. I say this to my shame, for I knew better than that. "I’ll pray as soon as I send So and So an email. Just let me write out a check for this bill. One more minute, Lord. Just let me throw in this load of wash, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera."

Prayer is how we enter into Christ’s rest. When we pray, we need to go to a quiet place by ourselves in order to spend time with our Lord. As much as I enjoy praying with the Church at Mass, I have learned that corporate prayer must never take the place of individual prayer in our lives. We need both forms of prayer.

Sometime ago, I was feeling very stressed out and restless in my spirit. Inwardly, sirens, bells, alarms and whistles were going off. The evil one, who was ringing those miserable bells and sounding the alarm, was desperately trying to entice me to look for an escape. "Take out the credit card, go to a restaurant, and then shop till you drop at the mall, spending money that you know you don’t have. Follow me, and I will help you to escape! Hurry! Hurry! Let us be on our way!"

As I envisioned myself sitting in a restaurant munching on garlic bread, quaffing down wine, and then leaving a shopping mall with colorful bags and boxes in my arms, I began to salivate. But then, common sense took over, as I realized that I simply did not have the money to indulge in this type of activity. 

Meanwhile, the restlessness in my spirit continued to intensify and the bells and whistles grew louder. I didn’t know what to do, so I decided to just drop everything, and went into a back room in order to pray. I stayed there for about one hour. I talked to the Lord about the things that were troubling me and causing me much anxiety and fear. I opened up my heart to Him about everything that I was struggling with and freely admitted that I simply did not know how to handle the pressures of life anymore. 

As I sat in His presence, I felt His peace enter into my spirit. The bells, whistles, sirens, and alarms became silent, and my spirit was no longer agitated. I had gone away with Jesus to a quiet place, and He rewarded my spirit with His rest.

Satan was offering my mind an escape, but what I really needed was that which Jesus gave. He gave my spirit rest.

Brothers and sisters, we must never lose sight of the fact that man is not only flesh and blood; he also has a soul and a spirit. Satan wants us to forget about the needs of the spirit in order to focus on the needs of the flesh, and this is why man is always getting himself into trouble.

Many times, when we are feeling bored, depressed, stressed out, overwhelmed, and restless, it is our spirit that is in need of rest. It is our spirit that is crying out for God. If we give our spirit what it needs, we will no longer find ourselves needing fleshly escapes and diversions all throughout the week.

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed out, avoid the temptation to look for an escape. Escapes do nothing for us. I have learned that when we indulge ourselves in different methods of escape, the stress or anxiety really doesn’t go away. It’s still there, waiting for us when we return from our escape.

The only reason why we’re not cognizant of the stress or anxiety when we are in Escape Mode is because we are temporarily distracted. But at some point, you have to return to your normal life, and you will find that the stress and anxiety are still there. Escape does not eradicate stress and agitation, but spiritual rest in Christ will.

Time spent with Christ in prayer may not necessarily change our circumstances; instead, it changes us. When our spirit has entered into Christ’s rest, we become refreshed and are able to deal with the stresses and pressures of everyday life in a manner that is pleasing to God and not destructive to us.

The next time Satan slithers into your path and tries to convince you to follow him and escape, remember  that it is not escape which you need. 

You must ignore his lies and look beyond him. You must ignore the demands of your flesh and listen to what the spirit is crying out for.  What your spirit cries out for is rest, a rest which only Christ can give.   

Go away with Him to a quiet place, beloved.  Hurry!  Hurry....

...for it is there where He will give you His rest.

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