Off-and-on over the past 2-3 years a friend and I have been mulling over the difference between Relaxing and Refreshing. There are things I do with my down time to relax but not all that is relaxing refreshes my soul. Relaxing is good and necessary. But in a stressful job, a stressful day, a stressful life, our soul longs for more than relaxing. We become soul-weary and long for joy, hope, peace, and energy if our souls are not refreshed regularly.
I’ve been asking friends what refreshes them personally and I’m enjoying the variety of answers. For the most part, they come down to four main things:
- Environment—a return to a particular environment, usually one they grew up with (i.e. the beach, the mountains, the lake, the woods, etc.).
- Creativity and activity—going for long run, a walk, creating something from wood, leather working, crocheting, knitting, scrapbooking, photography, cooking, baking, etc.; physically performing or creating something; activity and the creative process.
- Intimate relationships—talking with a long-time, close friend; to be known and be able to be yourself with them for a time, whether talking about serious matters or the inconsequential; unconditional love, acceptance, encouragement, understanding, accountability, and laughter.
- Refilling—inspirational reading and music; listening to sermons; reading large chunks of Scripture; extended private times to pour our hearts out to God; Bible study; intake that challenges our minds and hearts while encouraging our souls.
I find that fascinating!
While these thoughts have been circulating in my head, I have also been re-reading the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and just beginning John). Throughout these books, I’ve seen how absolutely absorbing and exhausting Jesus’ ministry must have been. It seems like everywhere He went there were people arguing with Him, trying to trip Him up, angry with Him, only to have such overwhelming needs placed before Him, compassion wringing in His heart for these helpless, lost people who were so desperately looking for hope, healing, and truth. Disgust and anger with the religious leaders who were so caught up with their own games and pride that they could not even drum up enough compassion to see the needs all around them, the neglect of the people they were to be leading. The density of His own friends and disciples at times. And yet, Jesus was ever patient, always answering the heart question of those before Him, taking time for those God set before Him, teaching the truth of God always, and healing many, feeding others. Training and discipling men to lead. Daily crowd management. Daily facing desperate need. Daily holding up truth against all of the confusion and confrontation. Daily expending Himself to draw these few men to full knowledge of God and the gospel. Daily walking closer to His own death. How?! How did He do all of this? How could He keep going some days? And how could He face all of this without once sinning?
Repeatedly the Scriptures tell us that Jesus went out into the wilderness to pray. (Environment, physical activity (walking), intimate relationship (often with His 12 disciples), and likely some instilling.) Something about His time alone in the wilderness praying refreshed Him. Prayer seems the obvious answer here but my prayers tend to be more of a laundry list than refreshing. What was it in those times with God that renewed Him? How did He pray during these times?
In 2 Timothy 2: 1, Paul encourages an embattled young pastor to “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” In a message recently, missionary Mitch Hoskins explained that this is a passive command—“Be strengthened by God’s grace.” Last year, God reminded me that I am swimming in a vast ocean of grace at all times as His child. (see previous post “Oceans of Grace”) Therefore, because all grace is already mine, then no matter where God takes me, He is already there and His grace is already abundantly supplied. As Mitch explained, to be strengthened in grace is to go back to the Source of that great grace. Jesus, in His times in the wilderness with prayer, I believe, spent time with the Source of all grace.
The next Sunday, from 2 Timothy 2:8, missionary Dib Hampton reminded us to “Remember”. Paul was encouraging Timothy to not only go back to the Source of grace but to remember. Remember what God has already done—salvation by His own power alone! Resurrection of Jesus from the dead! Forgiveness of sins in full and completely! Our own promised reward and eternity! Heaven! God Himself is with us! Remember! I believe that this was likely part of how Jesus went back to the Source of His grace—remembering Who God is and what He has done.
All throughout Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, we are commanded to “give thanks” and in 1 Thessalonians, the apostle Paul goes so far as to command us to “give thanks in all circumstances”. What?! How on earth do you do that?! I really don’t feel like giving thanks right now! By REMEMBERING the Source of our grace! Thankfulness does not come first but rather the discipline of remembering! REMEMBER!
I believe that at least part of Jesus’s ability to continue in His life, ministry, and into death as He did was these times of prayer in the wilderness. And I believe that part of those times of prayer was returning to the only Source of His grace and the discipline of remembering.
I think that this is what Jesus took back to God in those quiet times—the longings, the emotions, the stress, the joy, the frustration, the exhaustion. And then He sat to remember—remember Who God is, Who created all, Who works all in all, Who is all-powerful and sovereign, Who chose us in Jesus Himself before the foundations of the earth, and what God was going to accomplish with Jesus next. Complete submission. Complete obedience. Full of grace and truth.
Refreshing the soul with Who God is and what He has done. Refreshing the soul with the discipline of remembering. And the remembering leads to thanksgiving! Thanksgiving leads to praise of not just what He has done, but Who He is! And the soul is refreshed and strengthened in Who God is and will continue to be!
What is refreshing to you?