From Stress to Rest

This article was originally published in the April 2013 Newsletter.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

I was tired but determined – tired from having just returned from an international ministry trip the night before and determined to get a bike ride in before the end of the day. I was grateful to be home and to get some needed rest.

Before I left on that trip, at the end of a long bike ride, the sidewall on the rear wheel of my bike had come apart from the rim. Thankfully I was just a couple of blocks from the house when it happened. Now the disassembled bike sat in the garage waiting for the wheel to be repaired. My plan was to repair the wheel in the morning so I could fit in an early afternoon ride before spending the evening with friends. I would soon learn that God had other plans.

I left the house mid-morning and headed to the local department store to buy a new tire. I bought the tire as well as a few other items, checked out, and headed home. When I arrived home, I unpacked the items I had bought only to discover that the tire had not been put in the bag at checkout. All the other items I had bought were there, but not the tire. Frustrated, I drove back to the store to get the tire. Parking was a mess and I drove in circles trying to find a spot, my blood pressure rising with every turn. I finally parked and went into the store only to find the line to customer service was several people deep, and only one attendant was on duty.

At this point, I am tired, frustrated, and ready to tell the customer service lady what I think, and I am not thinking good thoughts! But I held my tongue, got the tire and finally headed home. At home I immediately set about changing the tire so I could get the ride in. The clock was ticking. In my haste I pinched part of the inner-tube between the wheel and the rim and the slow hiss of air I heard let me know I would need to patch a hole before I could proceed any further.

I patched the hole, put the inner-tube back inside the tire and mounted the tire on the rim. Success! I glanced at the clock. It still looked good for getting in the ride. I got the air pump out, plugged it in, and reached down to fill the tire with air. At this point I noticed a sticker on the rim detailing the size of tire it would hold. A sickening feeling settled into my gut as I noticed the size marked on the rim was different from the size I had purchased. “You have got to be kidding me,” I thought. Before I had left, I had looked on the tire sidewall for the size to make sure of the correct size. The problem went all the way back to the day I had bought the bike. I bought the bike used, and whoever sold it to me had mounted the wrong size tires on the rims! Now I understood what had caused the tire to fail in the first place. But I also realized that this meant I was going to have to remove the tire and make yet another trip to the store. I glanced at the clock again, hope fading.

I drove back to the store, found a parking spot, waited in line at the same customer service desk, and returned the tire, grateful that the lady who had helped me earlier was absent from the office. I went back to the sporting goods department only to discover that they were out of tires of the size I needed. I drove to another store only to find that they were also out of tires in that size. It was like there had been a run on 26”x1.75” bike tires. The odds of that happening left my mind spinning and my blood pressure banging on the sides of my skull.

I headed back to the house, revising my plan. The original tire had worked fine for many road trips. It wasn’t until I had inflated the tire to its maximum pressure that it had become an issue. I decided to reinstall the old tire and then only inflate it to the middle of the suggested pressure zone. I could still get a ride in. I would just stay closer to home than usual.

I reinstalled the old tire, careful not to pinch the inner tube, and hooked it up to the air pump. The tire filled to about 25 pounds of pressure and then for some reason the pressure would not go up. Dismayed, I discovered the original hole patch from earlier had failed. So I removed the tire again, repatched the hole, and reinstalled the tire. I hooked up the air pump again, and this time the air pump broke. I am not kidding. It just broke. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and I was broken as well.

I could not believe it. I mean, all I wanted to do was to take a bike ride. All I needed to do was to change a tire. But I felt like the entire universe was against me. My day off had become a travesty . I wanted to look to the heavens and say, “Really, God!” I was stressing out. And ironically, while all of this was happening, I was working on a message for church entitled, “From stress to rest.” It was as if God were giving me a giant sermon illustration, and I really didn’t appreciate it. “I mean, really, God? Did you have to use my day off to provide a sermon illustration?”

I gave up. I mean, I just completely gave up.

Sometimes our lives look like chapters out of the children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Our blood pressure rises, we feel like the universe has turned against us, nothing seems to work the way we want it to work. And frankly, many of us struggle with issues far greater than simply wanting to go on a bike ride. Cancer strikes. Jobs are lost. Divorce tears apart a home. A hurricane makes landfall. Children rebel. In those times, what do we do?

One of the key lessons God has taught me is this: the level of rest in my life is directly relative to the level of control I am willing to give to God. If I am willing to give God complete control, I receive complete rest. If I am willing to give God only partial control, then I receive only partial rest. And if I am not willing to give God any control, then I will not receive any rest.

So my problem had little to do with the tire issues and a great deal to do with the fact that I wanted to be in control. I wanted to do what I wanted to do! I would have benefited greatly if I had simply given the day to God at the beginning of the day and then let him be in control of everything that happened. The irony is that whether I am willing to give him control or not, he is still in control. Ouch!

Friend, where do you find yourself today? Is your blood pressure rising? Are you stressed out over something and you feel you are losing control?

Jesus said “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, ESV). Can you imagine? We come to him with all our problems, all our burdens, all the weariness, and we lay it all at his feet. In exchange, he gives us rest – pure, sweet, rest. But we cannot pick up his rest with hands that are clinging to our burdens. The burdens must be laid down first. Then with empty hands we pick up the rest he has given to us.

I pray that today, wherever this finds you, you may find rest. Give God 100% control of your life and your circumstances. Come to him with open arms and receive his rest. He waits for you now.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. But it ended really nicely, full of rest, when I finally gave it all over to God. No, I didn’t get my ride in, but I did receive rest. And so will you when you finally give it all over to God and he takes you from stress to rest.