Calm to an Overloaded Life
by Merrie Hansen
It was the spring after an extremely difficult winter. The threat of my husband’s job layoff loomed over our heads, leading to his being away more than half the time. Heavy snow on our roof had resulted in “ice damming” and a good deal of damage to our home. We were more than ready for rest. Yet, when an opportunity arose for me to travel with my husband to Pennsylvania for a week, I saw it as an interruption from the “things” that I thought I needed to do.
As a veteran church and community volunteer, I had become an expert at multi-tasking and putting myself into seemingly indispensable situations. I began stating my case: Who would lead the women’s Bible study? How will I get the Easter services arranged, and what about music selection for Sunday services? Who would take care of my cat? How will I get home from the airport? Where will the money come from to pay for the extra-incurred expenses and my flight back?
On top of overextending myself, extreme mood-swings of peri-menopause inflicted an unexplainable mayhem in my life. All together, this spelled s-t-r-e-s-s. I was a woman desperately needing a break.
By God’s mighty strength, He quickly loosened the grip of my hands on my obligations. One-by-one He took away every argument I conjured up, eliminating my excuses.
Eventually, my husband and I were on the road driving the entire 18½-hour 1,100-mile trip in one day. Long drives are a normal way for us to discuss the issues of our lives, but this was not even long enough to relieve me of the worries on my mind. After several days of fretting in the hotel room, I finally found myself alone yearning for a quiet walk with God. The weather would not permit an actual walk, so I chose to snuggle up to my Father and let Him read His Book to me. He selected David’s Psalm 23.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”
As My Father’s familiar words flowed into my heart, I felt the comfort of His arms holding me close. I wanted peace. I wanted joy. I wanted to be relieved of my burdens, but I kept trying to go my own way. He said, “I will lead you and care for your needs.” Before I had left home, He had raised up an unexpected volunteer to take my place for the leadership of the women’s Bible study. His provision of family members caring for my cat and arranging to pick me up at the airport eased more of my concerns.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.”
I felt that I had so much to do and so little time to do it. The Lord said, “Relax, breathe, rest in Me.” As I did, I began to remember all of the loveliness that He placed along the highways of our drive there. I recalled the deer along the streams feeding on the green grasses of the meadows with patches of snow glistening above them.
“He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
No longer did I feel alone. My Shepherd was with me, holding my hand, guiding my steps. The Easter preparations for services eased together, and my absence on the worship team did not stop the singing.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.”
Suddenly, the warmth of the sunshine streamed through the window on that chilly day. I began to realize that I had nothing to fear even with the uncertainty of my husband’s job; God would provide. He would keep us on the right road if we would heed His Word.
“Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Thou has anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.”
Right there in the middle of the hotel room with the enemy surrounding me, the Lord presented a beautiful banquet table. Just as Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, He washed away the weight upon my shoulders. His Holy Spirit flooded my heart to overflowing with peace and joy.
As He spoke the words, “Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” tears streamed from my eyes at the awareness of His unfailing, never-ending love. The reassurance of dwelling in the house of the Lord forever allowed me to release the stress of my overloaded life. I felt alive again.
When my husband returned to the room later that day, he knew that I had been with the Lord. My body relaxed, my face beaming. My mind cleared and ready to listen to the Shepherd’s voice. Happiness and serenity filled the remaining days we had together.
Why had I wasted most of the week away before enjoying the time with my husband? Why is it that so many of us miss everyday opportunities to proclaim, “The Lord is my Shepherd”? Why do we ignore the places of rest that He provides for us?
The promise of goodness, lovingkindness, and mercy are for all the days of my life. The Shepherd provides me with peaceful pastures and calm streams every day calming my soul, if I will follow where He leads. His presence is always with me. His rod and His staff comfort and sooth my hurting heart. His banquet table sits openly in front of the enemy for me to partake.
God gives us life, not death. Reading the twenty-third Psalm at funerals brings comfort to the loved ones left behind. The reassuring message of crossing over from death to eternal life calms the soul. Picturing heaven as a place to lie down in green pastures along quiet streams soothes a hurting heart. With the Shepherd leading, protecting, and providing the way for his sheep, there is peace.
I believe that David wrote these words for every day living, and for those dark, scary, difficult events of our lives. They bring relief and rest when life seems unbearable. Too often the twenty-third Psalm is associated only with death, rather than life.
My life continues to have pain and difficulty. I still have a tendency to be a multi-task queen overloading my schedule, but with the knowledge that I am dispensable. When He taps me with His rod and staff, I know that it is His call for me to rest. Just as sheep require a shepherd to keep them safe and on the right path, we all need the Good Shepherd to care for our needs.
So when you are feeling weak and heavy laden, cuddle up with the Father. He is calling, “Come to Me, so I may give you rest.”
(By the way, an IRS check from an amended tax return was waiting in my mailbox when I returned home, meeting all but $1.30 of my airline ticket!)
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