If we were meeting for the first time, how would you introduce yourself? What pieces of your story would you choose to share that describe who you are? If you had to leave out what you’ve done in the past, who you know, or what you’re trying to do now, would you find it difficult to tell me who you are?
Would you feel insignificant, small, or unimportant? Or would you feel relieved? What if you were to describe the life you truly long for? How much of the weight of your desires do you carry on your shoulders as if it all comes down to your own effort and strength?
Have you achieved some milestones in your exterior life and have an accolade or two to share and yet you’re left with a surprising, insatiable longing for more? Have you had to lay down your career for a season and now you feel the angst of unrest in your soul?
For most of us, life has become more complicated than we ever imagined. We are inundated with conflicting messages; some say we should rest; some say we should work as hard and as long as humanly possible to make our dreams come true, and others urge us to find a work-life balance somewhere in between. We are pulled in more directions than we ever imagined, and this alone can leave you feeling weary and pressured.
Often, a craving for recognition evolves from the busyness of our lives. It is easy to over-commit when we click and scroll, it feels like someone is out there doing important things. We end up giving up our true need to nurture the relationships dearest to us in life to fill the calendar with activities.
We can quickly find ourselves unable to be present for anything in life when we feel chronically over-scheduled, out of balance, pressured to do always do more, and overwhelmed with the complication of trying to build authentic community. Rather than savoring the moments, we plow through one season to get to the next.
Inevitably, we come to the end of our ability and capacity and become thoroughly tired – bone-tired – the kind of tired that robs you of the very things you’re longing for – peace, joy, contentment, belonging, and rest.
And yet God calls us “beloved.” We are loved by God, which is what “beloved” means. God has both made us in His image and named us in His image. God loves us because it is in His character. He is the One who fulfills our greatest need to be loved.
Living as one of God’s beloved changes everything. It is from this place, a place of contentment and rest, that your true self emerges. It is from this place that we learn what God values and what He doesn’t. And it is from here that we learn the secret of living a fulfilled life – that is, a life lived from the fullness of God as His beloved.
We learn to abide in Him, to rest in Him, to yield, to trust, and to wait for what He has promised to perform on our behalf. As King David recognized in the Psalms, it was God who increased his strength and fulfilled the purpose of his life, “The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me.”
When Jesus walked on the earth, He consistently asked prodding and challenging questions. “What do you want?” Jesus asked. Of course, He already knew the answer. He is asking each of us this question still, for our self-discovery, so that we will discover who and Whose we are and all that we truly long for.
The call to take your place as the beloved is a worthy calling but one we often don’t feel worthy of. Because of this, we all tend to labor and strive. Jesus understands this about us. In His mercy and gentleness, He calls us to rest in our beloved-ness. “Come to me, all 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, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”
Jesus isn’t inviting us into a life of apathy or lethargy. There is certainly good work for us to do. The Bible assures us that we all have work to do that has been prepared in advance. God is more committed to you than you can imagine. What Jesus is inviting you into is a partnership in which you can do everything you do from His strength rather than your own.
It is a great exchange – your weakness and proneness to weariness for His strength. Our part is to believe, to yield, and to receive. His part is to fill, equip, and empower us. It is in partnership with Him that we walk out our beloved-ness.
Psalm 37:4 is one of the common verses of Scripture that we find printed on tea towels and coffee cups and learn to memorize in Sunday school, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desire of your heart.”
This verse is easily misunderstood to mean something like, “If I scratch God’s back, He’ll scratch mine,” or “If I just do more things for God then He will be pleased with me and return the favor.” We often do not understand what it means to take delight in the LORD and fall into a sense of duty or obligation instead. “Just enjoy Me,” He says. “Just enjoy Me and I will give you the desires of your heart.”
God is both the instiller and the fulfiller of our desires and longings. He not only shows us what our desires truly are, but He fills us with new desires as we enjoy being with Him. His dreams for us are much bigger than the dreams we have for ourselves, and He satisfies more than any dream fulfilled ever could.
Doing good things for God is often what makes us feel most validated and right before Him and even others, however, the Bible tells us that Jesus alone is our righteousness. Not only had He come to save us; He came to restore us to Himself so that we might live from who He is. Do you trust God with your dreams, with your longings, with your reputation, and with what you feel called to do? Do you trust Him for the life you want and even long for?
His invitation to follow Him is an invitation to trust in Him. It is an invitation to live from the bullseye of our life – the principal place where our true self abides in Him and He in us. In comparison to our life as a bullseye, the outermost part consists of our achievements, dreams, wants, and endless to-do lists that go along with all of that.
The circle just inside that stands for our relationships – marriage, children, family, friends, church, community. The bullseye is the calm center of it all, near to God’s heart, where we take our place as His Beloved. Most often, we are stuck in the outermost ring, running in circles, exhausted and determined to prove our worth.
In this way of life, we hit the ground running every morning. The to-do list takes precedence over the needs of your soul as you focus on doing everything you think you are supposed to do for God and yourself to make life go as you’ve planned. We find ourselves too exhausted to spend time with God much less enjoy Him.
We have far too many important responsibilities. We end up with a twinge of shame in our gut, asking for God’s forgiveness for not giving Him more, and yet we had no more to give because our strength was gone. Tragically, when our strength is gone, it is not only our relationship with God that suffers but our closest relationships as well. We may even feel like we’ve fallen out of love with those closest to us.
We are all prone to outside-in living and outer-ring hustling because we tend to make a way for ourselves that goes back to the Garden of Eden. Our fear of trusting God is universal. Rather than stepping into His invitation to live from His best, we settle for what we can make happen on our own. The world is constantly pushing us to get out there and make it happen.
We are consistently told by the world that no one is going to carry out our dream for us so with clenched teeth we strive to keep up and feel driven to support our family, our dreams, our career, and our reputation. The pressure is often so fierce that we don’t even know how to take a breath and assess who and where we really are.
To make matters worse, the Enemy of our souls is working overtime to keep us from living from our truest selves. The lies are subtle, “It’s all up to you.” This lie is the antithesis of the life that God offers us. This lie heaps all the weight and worry of the outcome on our shoulders.
It places all the responsibility on our performance and our ability to make a way for ourselves in the world. It destructively feeds our tendency towards self-sufficiency. While we know the truth, our self-sufficiency has a shelf life. Some of us expire faster than others but eventually, we are all going to fizzle out at this kind of pace and the repercussions can be devastating.
We still must choose to trust God before our feet even hit the floor in the mornings, to remember that we are seen, heard, known, and loved by God. To ask for His help and resist the tendency to run to the outer ring instead of rest in who He is and who you are in and with Him.
Living from the bullseye positions us to approach the outermost rings of our lives with intentionality and purpose as well as with the strength to be available to others in a way that we never have before.
Here, in this purest place at the center of His heart, you can choose to accept this beautiful invitation to inside-out living and truly rest and find contentment as one of His beloved. And, Beloved, when you begin to live out from His love, you will see Him show up on your behalf in ways you have never experienced before.
One of the greatest advantages of seeking a counselor with Seattle Christian Counseling is knowing that your counselor is not reliant solely upon his or her ability to serve you well but is trusting God for wisdom, resources, insight, compassion, and understanding on your behalf. Please feel free to reach out to me or one of the counselors in your area.
Much of this article’s content is based upon notes from Christy Nockel’s recent publication, The Life You Long for: Learning to Live from a Heart of Rest.Photos:
“Man in a Suit”, Courtesy of Ben Rosett, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Looking Out the Window”, Courtesy of Bermix Studio, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Bullseye”, Courtesy of Anastase Maragos, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Rainbow”, Courtesy of Stainless Images, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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