In this women’s topic, we discover six symptoms of a heart not at rest and six symptoms of a restful heart. Life and its circumstances can be a doorway to finding Jesus and the rest He has to offer, but the choice with what we do with them is up to us.
“Heavenly Father, Lord, we come before Thee at this moment bringing Caroline before Thee, Father. We just pray for Thy blessing, Thy strength, Thy peace, Thy infilling, Thy rest to her heart. And Lord, be with the sisters that are here. Open their hearts. And help them, Father, to know how this message applies to their lives personally. So just bless us at this hour of sharing and we just pray that Your presence would be mighty here. We pray for the binding of the enemy and any hindering spirits, Father, that would hinder the prospering and the fruitfulness of this message. We ask it all in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”
“Well, good afternoon, ladies. I have looked forward to this with a real mix of feelings and I feel like it’s a little bit ironic that I should be in front of a group of ladies speaking about rest when – you know, how does a person rest when your heart’s thumping extra fast? But the other side of it is that God has taught me a lot through the years and I find it a joy to share my journey with other people because it means a lot when God does a work in our lives. It becomes a precious thing to us. And if He can use my story, I will just thank Him for that and praise Him for that.
I find it very interesting the day that I received the invitation to speak was a very unusual day for me. I woke up that morning; because of some things we were struggling through, there was two words that described how I felt that morning. And those two words weren’t nice words. They were “lost” and “isolation.” That’s how I felt. But as I’ve had to do through the years, where you need to go in those times is to the Lord. And so I went to the Lord again and He gave me His word and just completely set me into a new direction for my day. And God ministered to me throughout that day in unusual ways. I feel like it’s one of those days that I will never forget, where the Spirit was ministering truth to my heart. He brought interactions with people. It was just one of those amazing, amazing days in ways that He just confirmed who I am in Him. And that evening is when the email reached me about speaking, and immediately something in here told me, “Yup, that’s going to happen.” I didn’t want to go too far with that because I wanted my husband to make the decision to come and not me, but that’s – immediately I felt like yes, this is something God is asking me to do, and I even felt at that point like I already know – that I had a sense of what I wanted to share. And it is a sense of that that I bring today, though it’s been reformatted a little bit because of the fact that I’m talking to a group of people with very varied circumstances. There’s youth girls, there’s singles, there’s likely widows, single mothers, lots of married ladies. And so I wanted something that can be applicable to all. But that is, the theme is about finding our rest in Him.
Maybe just to get started, I’ll tell you a little bit more about just who I am. Not that that’s so important, but I like to keep things informal and I wish that could somehow make you interact to make it more that way so I could be more comfortable. But I was 30 when I got married to Leonard, and we’ve been married for 21 years. We have three boys; our oldest two are twins, named Travis and Tristan, and they are 18, and Derek, my surprise package, is 11. We live in Hillcrest, like was mentioned, Arkansas, now for twelve years. It’s a voluntary service unit where there’s a lot of young people coming and going all the time. Approximately 45 young people serve there at a time, usually about for fifteen months. So there’s been a lot of people that have touched our lives and we feel like our lives have been so enriched because we know so many people. But the fact is they all kinda move on, and so a lot of our acquaintances are just people that we’ve known just for a chapter in their lives. As far as my responsibilities there, I’m largely a wife and a mom. And then on the sidelines I like to interact with our staff girls as opportunity gives me, as well as just other ways to interact with our life there. My hobbies: I love to sew. I do some hobby sewing for CAM. I love birding; I love my birds. They minister to me; they feel like my friends, even though they’ve never really done much for me besides just showing me their beauty. I love my flowers and I love coffee with friends. That’s just a little window into who I am.
The topic theme: I will try to, as I go through my topic, I want to follow a little bit of a format in case someone is wanting to take notes. So my topic theme is The Enabling Power of a Restful Heart, and when I speak to you about a restful heart, I’m talking about a condition of our hearts when we know what it’s like to trust God. It has a lot, almost everything, to do, with being able to trust our God. It’s talking about being secure in Him and at peace with God. It has a lot to do with just a heart that’s at peace, at peace with God, at peace with who we are, and at peace with our circumstances as well. And I don’t want you to get the picture today that a restful heart is something I have just completely mastered because you know what, it really is a daily journey. There’s new things that come at us all the time but God has done a work in my life and has taught me a lot about that. And because of that journey is why I feel so passionate about this subject, this is something I wish so much for all of us as God’s women. And I wish for everyone in my world that they would know the peace and the rest that we can have through Jesus.
The goal in my heart for this topic, and I want to wrap up with this then later on too, but I really, really want you all to see Jesus as being that answer for rest, as our only, only place of rest. And I just want today for this time to be a way to lead you to Jesus. If there’s issues of insecurity, if you need an intimate relationship with your God, that’s the place to go is to Jesus, and to Him alone.
The question could come up, how do we get there? And honestly, I don’t have a pat formula except to take life as it comes at you, and it’s going to be different for every person. Because of where you’re at in life, the season in life, your circumstances, everyone’s story is uniquely theirs, but my answer is that whatever the circumstances are that you are faced with, take those circumstances, don’t try to run around the difficulties, but rather see the difficulties that come your way as your doorway to coming to Jesus and to find Him in those. That’s what I can point to, when it comes to the healing that’s happened in my life, it’s just that I had to go to Jesus again and again and again. And guess what? I still I have to do that. And that’s the biggest thing I want you to take with you today is whatever your circumstances are, to go Jesus with them. And I don’t want to minimize also, just the role that the Bible, His Word, has in us finding rest.
I believe that we can find God in our good times, I believe He wants us to have good times and experience Him in the good times. But there is something about that verse in Philippians 3:10, where it says, “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings.” And I get to that part of that verse and I want to say it, but I kinda pause, I kinda stumble sometimes, because I want the fellowship, but I’m not sure about the suffering part. But I think there is a knowing of God that happens through our sufferings, through our difficulties. And I think it’s important for us to learn to embrace those and let them be our doorways to finding God.
I believe rest is a Biblical theme. If I look at the overarching story of the Bible, it’s a story about God wanting a people to be His own and to eventually be at rest with Him in heaven. So that is foundational, I believe. I want to turn to what I’m going to call the key verse. Isaiah 30:15, the key verse for this topic. “For thus saith the Lord God, the holy one of Israel, in returning and rest shall ye be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.” And the verse ends with, “and ye would not.” But we don’t have to make that our experience. But that thing of that in quietness and confidence can be our strength and I just have found that when my heart is at rest and at peace, there is so much energy that can come out of that, that those days where my mind is clouded with doubt or fear or just struggle, you know what, it just saps a lot of energy, but there is a lot of strength that comes out of a heart that is quiet and confident.
Turning now to 1 Peter 3. Women’s sessions often go to this passage, because it is one of those passages that specifically speaks to women. We’ll just look at verse 4 through 6. “But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time, the holy women also who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands, even as Sarah obeyed Abraham calling him lord, whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well and are not afraid with any amazement.” I love the fact that it uses the word adornment and ornament to describe what we are to possess. Women love beauty, and I just think that one of the most appropriate things that a godly woman can wear is a quieted heart, a heart that’s at peace. What is more beautiful than that? And I think that adornment and ornament describes that well.
I’d like to look especially at Sarah here. There’s other women we could look at in the Bible too, but for time’s sake, I don’t think we will. I’ve always been so intrigued with how it says at the end of verse 6, that we are her daughters if we do well and are not afraid with any amazement. Some other translations render that, as long as ye do well and do not give way to fears, I think it is. And that connected with my heart because that is certainly something I have dealt with. So to be a daughter of Sarah, I picture a quiet and restful, serene heart that’s freed from fears. It says that they trusted in God. It doesn’t even say that they trusted their men. They trusted in God and were in subjection unto their husbands.
I look at the life of Sarah. If you think about Sarah, she did not really have the security of home. She had a husband who left home, not even knowing where he was gonna go. How many of you women would like to travel like that? I like my life very predictable. So that intrigues me about Sarah. She was barren in a culture where your worth was largely dependent on how many children you have, especially sons. So that was a definite cause, or could have been a reason for her to be insecure. But maybe even more than any of that, she had a husband who twice put her at risk to save himself. She had a good man, she had a godly man, but you know what? He failed her pretty badly, twice. So it doesn’t specifically say that she trusted him but she trusted God. Later on I wanna come back to her story. And I should maybe be mentioning it, but I often have found courage too in the fact that Sarah is mentioned here in the Bible, but we also know that she kinda succumbed to not trusting God and came up with her own way of producing a child. I think it’s gracious of the Lord that He allows failures of godly people to be recorded because we all fail sometimes too. But she’s still listed as a woman who trusted in God.
I want to tell you a little bit more about my journey. By nature I am a sensitive person and I am a person who can easily be given to fears, especially in some very specific ways that I have struggled with fear. I am easily given to doubts. I shared in my small group this morning how that I can so easily doubt that God is pleased with me or that He can really claim me. I can easily doubt my personal adequacy. Those are just places, threads of that have always been a part of my life. But back in ’05 when we moved to Hillcrest, it seemed like those nerves… Before that world, I thought I was a secure person, but when I moved there I felt like every insecure nerve in me got huge. And it really, really launched a journey for me.
I want to describe how I felt. It felt like waves of inadequacy. I was in a good place, I liked living at Hillcrest, I was with good people, but the interaction between us as the team women, our interactions were largely more in the areas, maybe, of where they excelled more than I did. And I just allowed that to intimidate me to a huge, huge identity crisis. I compared myself to them, and I felt very, very insecure. I didn’t feel worthless but I felt worth less, if you can follow that. I really, really felt that. And I would feel like at that time there was just a lot of those feelings of being so overwhelmed and vulnerable. There was a lot of lies that came at me from the enemy, I believe, and they came with a tsunami force, I felt like. Just washed over me, and I just felt like I didn’t even have the strength to not believe them because they were so real and they were so powerful. It was a journey of years before I felt like I could start looking at all of it from the outside in instead of feeling like I’m right in the middle of it. But it was some of those initial waves that kinda launched that wilderness walk, and I feel like God was wanting to strip me through that time, because I think maybe up to that point what I thought was securities maybe weren’t really rooted like they should have been and so He stripped it so He could start with something new, maybe. I know that He had good purposes in it anyway.
Another factor could well have been His purification purposes were a big part of what God wanted to do. There was also the aspect that I feel like probably I was under very specific target of spiritual attack because of my ministry to girls there. The devil has his goals and God has His goals, but praise the Lord, God is the one who came through and got the final say of what happened in my life through that time.
Also through that time my husband Leonard – if I would have to describe him – these are some of the words I would use to describe him, he’s kind of fearless, in fact I think his name means lion-like, fearless, something like that, and he kinda lives that way. He’s kind of fearless, so opposite from me. He’s very passionate, he a confident, he’s a visionary kind of guy. And that was such a stability and a security for me through that time but then he got hit and I felt like that just further rendered me feeling so incredibly vulnerable. He was led into his own wilderness where he was burying dreams he had, ambitions he had, visions he had, that he thought God had given him. And so I remember him saying that he’s wondering if he even knows how to hear God. It was so hard to see his confidence shaken and altered. I remember one night I was calling out to God about that I felt like he’s being destroyed. And I just asked God about that and He told me. He said, “No man that seeks My face is ever destroyed.” And I knew that in my husband’s strugglings, that’s where he went. He sought his God all the more. That took care of that doubt. I knew that he would not be destroyed.
There was one specific night where – back to the Sarah story – because of how Leonard was struggling, there was a specific season where there was a lot of push back from others toward him. And I don’t say that in a critical way at all, it’s just how it is when we work with people, but there was a push back happening and I remember how vulnerable I felt because I had three sons growing up, and especially my oldest two were getting to that place where I wanted to make sure that they are safe under safe leadership. And so I was feeling kinda tossed because some of the people who were pushing back on him were godly men I also respected. And how was I supposed to know who’s right and who’s wrong and are my boys gonna be safe? Those are some of the honest questions that were in my heart through that time and I expect there’s a lot of women here today who, if you have a man in leadership, these things happen. And even if they’re not in leadership, there’s just times where we feel vulnerable and we don’t always know if they’re right or if they’re wrong. That’s where I was at that point. I had gone to bed that night and I wasn’t even thinking about it anymore, when out of the blue God said, “Remember Sarah.” I started thinking about that and it ministered so deeply to me because the message about remembering Sarah is all about a woman who trusted God more than her husband. And my husband was not an Abraham who was betraying me, but he was fallible. Our men our fallible, and so we have to have a trust that goes deeper than just our men. But I was so comforted by that message, that if I place my trust in God for my sons and for me, that God will honor that. And it doesn’t even demand a perfect husband, it doesn’t demand that our husbands always get it just right, but if our trust is in Him, He will honor that. I have never forgotten that message to my heart.
I just really, really believe that the wildernesses we’ve trekked were from God. The enemy would have liked to do his things with it, but God has done so much in my life, so much in Leonard’s life, through our journey there. He has purified us, He has kept us, He has just been so good to me. And maybe most importantly, it was just that through these difficulties, I feel that I had my security rebuilt in a more proper way. That it has to be based on the Lord, it cannot be based on what other people think. It has to be found in Him, and in Him alone. And I just want to testify to the fact that if there is one thing I could point to that brought healing to my heart through those years, it was those times when God spoke to me, those little messages of “Remember Sarah” or “No man who seeks me will be destroyed,” those times where I knew that God had given me a very concise little nugget of truth that just illuminated my heart, and I found that His voice always was such a welcoming, gentle, inviting voice. There was times when He had to show me my sin but even in that, it was not condemning, it was inviting, inviting me to repentance. And it brought me to Himself, and it brought resolution. I just want to praise the Lord for that.
I’d like to give you six symptoms of a heart that is not at rest. And they all start with the letter C. This just kinda came to me. I don’t hope there’s a connection between these bad things starting with C and my name starting with C. You will notice that almost all of these things are things that happen within our minds. This is the battleground.
The first one is the comparing game. We women are really bad about that. There’s a reason Scripture says that if we compare ourselves among ourselves, we are not wise. I did so much of that and when you compare, if you’re going to do the comparing game, somebody is going to lose, and often it was me. This was all just going on in the silence of my own mind. I was often the loser. But what happened is eventually I got tired of being the loser, and I found ways, again just subtly within my own heart, to exalt myself and say that over here, I am better in this. This is where I can….am better, or whatever. And so because of that actually developed a competitive spirit toward my fellow-sisters, because I didn’t always want to be the loser, and that’s a good way to destroy relationships. Insecurity was the root of that. I believe insecurity is a root of the comparing game and it’s a tremendous breeding ground for jealousy in relationships. And in contrast to that, I just want to urge us all as women, let’s speak words of blessing to each other in our giftings. Our giftings are varied and they are meant to be that way. Let’s bless each other instead of doing the comparing game, feeling like we’re not worth as much if we’re not as good as someone else or feeling like we’re better than. No, let’s just honor each other for the gifts we do have.
The second one is control. I won’t enlarge much on that except just to say control, I think, is usually, if not always, driven by a fear. We’re scared of something, we’re feeling vulnerable and in order to protect ourselves we try to take control of it. And it’s what we do when we’re choosing to trust ourselves instead of trust in God.
The third one is cravings. Through those times of hurting – I’m a person who loves relationships – and so I was hurting a lot and I just simply craved for someone to really, really understand what I’m going through and I found myself frustrated because I felt it seemed there were so few people who really understood the world I’m in and just – you know how we are, we’d like for someone to just understand all the details that go into it, and just say the perfect thing that will make us feel all better. That’s what my heart just craved. And guess what? I think God was very merciful in that He did not allow me to find anyone that quite fit that. I grasped for it sometimes and it just seemed like it would just dead end. And again it wasn’t that I was with the wrong people, or that there weren’t plenty of friends and family around, but it was just that it was meant to be found in Christ, and He allowed it to dead end so that I would come to Him. I came to a place where I felt like all I had was Him, but the fact was, that it okay eventually. Eventually it was okay. I think looking to people – people have their place, but when we look to people to satisfy our hearts, I think it’s idolatry because that is something that only God wants to be for us. And so when we look to people for those things, it’s idolatrous, and I also think it’s insatiable. I think if you’re going to go to people to satisfy the deepest questions of your heart, you’re going to have to keep going to people and going to people and going to people because they’re not going to satisfy, because it is a something only God can satisfy. So you’ll end up being disappointed; that can easily turn into bitterness and eventually will just destroy relationships. It’s just unfair to put onto people what only God can satisfy. But looking to Jesus truly, truly can satisfy that in us. I don’t know how many of you know the song “Eternal God.” There’s a line in that song that says, “All of our longings come home to you.” (You know it, Jo Jo.) I love that song because I have found it to be so true. Whatever we’re going through, there’s parts of our heart that cannot be satisfied, and all of those longings eventually trail us to God, if we allow it to be that. And they will be satisfied there, if we allow Him to.
The fourth one is careful. And I want you to understand this word in the sense of “full of care.” Philippians 4:6 is one of my favorite verses. It says, “Be careful for nothing but in everything by care and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” 1 Peter tells us to cast all our care on him. This is a big one for me because I get bogged down with cares very, very easily. Specifically some of the things that just really can make me full of care – is just some of the things we’ve been hearing about this week – just the foreboding future. It just feels like the clouds are getting dark, and that can just work on me and make me feel just heavy. And of course I tend to doubt myself and that kind of thing, you know – will I be able to stand? But that is the kind of thing where Jesus has invited us to cast that on Him, to trust Him. We can trust God with everything.
The fifth one is a critical spirit. All I will say about this is simply this: if we struggle with possessing a critical spirit, I believe that one who is critical with just a propensity for being critical, is probably someone who has not really received and understood the grace of God in their own lives, and because of that you can’t give it. I think the more I’ve understood my own need for grace, my own need for forgiveness, the older I get, the more I realize that and the more I have to offer to other people in giving grace because I know how much I need it myself.
And the sixth one is complaining. I think we are by nature prone to be negative and discontent. I love the verse in Hebrews 13:5 where it says that we – I believe I’ll have to turn to that – to be content with such things as ye have, for he has said I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. And I just think that is an intriguing connection. We are to be content. Why? Because He says we have Him. It’s all we need.
And now I’d like to give you six symptoms of a restful heart, and we’ll end on a positive note – a heart that is full of rest. I believe being restful gives you the ability to endure loneliness. Loneliness was a gateway to God for me. Some of it might have been self-inflicted, but God still used it. And also especially for leader’s wives, it’s often been said that leaders have lonely positions. Well, if your husband is a leader and if he’s going to have lonely places, then you probably will too. And just know that it’s okay. We are not meant to live in an island, but we will all have our own lonely places to walk. And I think if our hearts are at rest with the Lord, we can walk that well.
The second one is: I think, being restful enables us to release others into God’s care. Through that time with my husband, I just found it so freeing that I could just trust God with him. You know, obviously, God was up to something too. He had plans for my husband through that time and when I was just able to trust God with that, I didn’t have to fix him, I didn’t have to defend him, I didn’t have to fight. I could simply give him to God and get out of the way so that God could be free to do whatever He was up to doing. And I think sometimes defending our men can look like such a noble thing – we’re just being so loyal to our godly men – in defending them. But I have found that those times where I wanted to go out and fight for him and defend for him – it was way more about me than it was about him. I was uncomfortable with where this was putting me more than what I cared about the ache in his heart. That was pretty revealing. I just wonder how many times that’s the case, where our defensiveness is more about us protecting ourselves than them. And I think if for our men, they are meant to be the strong one, they are meant to be the leaders, I think we can trust them that they will have the grit it takes to get through their battles. And we have our roles but I have found that as I was restful, my heart was actually freed and strengthened to just love him and support him. I was just able to do it so much better. And part of the reason for that is because I was not yet another clamoring voice in his life saying, ‘Give me, give me,’ because I was at rest. I had what I needed in the Lord and I didn’t have to clamor and be a needy and take more energy yet from him.
The third one. I think a restful heart enables longevity in ministry. I like to picture that every day when we get up in the morning we are allotted a certain amount of emotional energy. It’s all we’re gonna get for the day. This is the amount you have. And if we expend it in the wrong places, we’re simply out. Now whether it actually works that way or not, I don’t know, but I think it’s a caution for us. Be careful. I wasted so much emotional energy earlier on with just battles that were going on in my mind, and I don’t know what opportunities I missed because I was so caught up in my own world. I believe a restful heart uses its emotional energy in the right places and because of that, your life can be a flow of life to others.
The fourth one. I think a restful heart enables a clear mind, which enables us to hear God’s voice. Usually when I’ve heard God really speaking to me, it was often after I was at a place of quietness, where I was able to hear better. We can think better when we are restful, and God can lead us so much better when we are restful. Restfulness enables us to live every day well. Don’t we all want to do that? Living every day well. Every day is a gift. The fact is, I haven’t mastered this one. I love my routine, I love being at home, and I love being at home alone. And guess what, with teenagers, I don’t have as many of those as I used to have. It’s been kind of a struggle for me, because I just love quietness. But I still like them all to come home at the end of the day and put their feet under my table. I struggle with the fact that our lives at Hillcrest involves a lot of traveling. And I always enjoy the trips, but both of our families are in other states, so there’s family events, there’s a lot of Hillcrest-related trips we do, international trips about once every two years. And it’s just become a struggle for me. I just like to be at home! But I think if I can master this restful heart, I’d like to learn how to take that with me on my trips a little bit better. I think I’ve been fairly restful on this trip, by the way. Being with you all has been wonderful.
And last, I think a restful heart will reflect in your countenance. And I think as women, maybe that’s one of the best things we can offer our world, is a face that is at peace. Worldly women – I like to watch people and I look at people sometimes and I see their eyes, and I see their bodies look so worn, and I just think ‘Oh my, that person is so lost,’ because it reflects. Our countenance reflects – can reflect – a lot, and I think that is one way we can bear testimony to our world of the difference Jesus makes, is by having joy and peace on our faces. Is there anything more beautiful than a pleasant countenance in a woman whose heart is at rest?
In closing, I’d like to just come back again to what my goal is for this topic, and that is to just encourage each one of you to let Jesus be your only, only place of rest. In whatever life is bringing your way, let it be the doorway to God. Let it be the doorway to Jesus. And if it takes you going to Him again and again and again, that’s good. That’s the way it’s meant to be, and just keep on going until you find Him. God bless all of you!