Overwhelmed. Exhausted. Depressed. Panicky. Stressed. Burned out. Broken. Paralyzed. Drowning. Empty. Recognize yourself in any of these words? Maybe in all of them? You’re not alone. These are the most common words I’ve heard Christian women using to describe themselves and their lives.
Whatever happened to the words peaceful, calm, joyful, content, quiet, rested, refreshed, and fulfilled? Wouldn’t you like to exchange the second set of words for the first?
It seems impossible, doesn’t it? Especially as the demands upon us keep multiplying: housework demands our energy, employers demand our hours, the church demands our commitment, friends demand our presence, kids demand our taxi-cab, credit cards demand our dollars, school sports demand our evenings and Saturdays, the yard demands our sweat, charities demand our donations, the sick demand our visits, marriage demands our time, relations demand our phone calls, email demands our replies, Pinterest demands our perfection, and on and on it incessantly goes.
Sometimes you want to run away, don’t you? Or curl up in a ball and hide under the covers. Or jam your fingers in your ears and silence the clamor. Or maybe lock the door and throw away the key, the phone, and the ever-lengthening to-do list. The demands are simply overwhelming. And there’s little prospect of change, little hope of experiencing the second group of words again, until, well, maybe retirement.
I sympathize, because I’ve been there too. However, over many years, and through many struggles, the Lord has graciously delivered me from the first set of words and into a more regular experience of the second. In short, he has taught me, and is teaching me, how to live a grace-paced life in a world of overwhelming demands.
The five wells of a grace-paced life
A grace-paced life? What’s that? It’s a pace of life that’s constantly refreshed by five different wells of divine grace.
Grace moderates our expectations of ourselves and others.
First, there’s the motivating well of grace. We used to be driven by money, family perfection, beauty, careers, or earning God’s favor. But instead of filling and fulfilling us, these motivations drained and dried us. Now though, we daily drop our buckets into the unsearchable depths of God’s saving grace in Christ to freely receive his overflowing mercy and love. Filled to overflowing with gospel grace, we are now energized and enthused to serve him at home, at work, and at church, as our heart beats, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Second there’s the moderating well of grace. Grace moderates our expectations of ourselves and others. At the foot of the cross, we have seen our sin and our sinfulness. We have learned that we are not perfect and never will be. Therefore, when we fall and fail, we don’t torment or torture ourselves. Instead, we calmly take our sins to Calvary knowing that God’s grace forgives us all our imperfections and lovingly accepts us as perfect in Christ. We don’t need to serve, sacrifice, or suffer our way to human or divine approval, because Christ has already served, sacrificed, and suffered for us. His perfection moderates our perfectionism as we remind ourselves, “Accepted, accepted, accepted.”
Third, we are refreshed by the multiplying well of grace. We no longer believe that everything depends on us and our efforts. Rather, we trust God to multiply our few loaves and fishes. We don’t sit back and do nothing, but neither do we try to do everything. We sow and water, but we realize that it’s God who gives the increase. God’s blessing multiplies our work in a way that no amount of extra hours or effort can. How calming and soothing is this realization and the prayer it produces: “Multiply, multiply, multiply.”
Fourth, the releasing well of grace helps us hand control of our lives over to God. We trust his sovereignty not just in salvation but in every area of life. Yes, we still work diligently and carefully, but releasing grace humbly submits to setbacks, problems, and disappointments, accepting them as tests of our trust in God’s control. When tempted to micromanage and dictate our lives and the lives of others, we drop our bucket into this refreshing well as we whisper to ourselves, “Release, release, release.”
Finally, there’s the receiving well of grace. [C]loser inspection reveals [it] to be made up of a number of smaller wells. Each of them represents one of God’s gracious gifts to his needy creatures: a weekly Sabbath, sleep, physical exercise, family and friends, Christian fellowship, and so on. In our fast-paced life, we used to push these gifts away, thinking that we didn’t need them. But in the grace-paced life, we approach these wells saying, “Receive, receive, receive.” The more and more we see that our heavenly Father designed and drilled these wells for our good, the more we receive and enjoy their renewing and refreshing waters.
Editor’s note: Content taken from Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands by Shona and David Murray, ©2017. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.