I’m an ENFP with a whopping 88% on the extrovert scale (crazy!).
This means that I glean energy through social interactions and thrive on meeting people.
Consequently, I tend to pack my schedule to the brim with social activities and things to do.
Yes, I’m a veteran extrovert – and I’ve become well aware of certain problematic behavioural patterns in my life.
1. I find it hard to say no
My calendar is usually packed to the brim.
Some weeks, I find myself declaring in exasperation: “I can’t breathe!”
But the truth is that this is mostly due to me not daring to say “no” to friends.
My inability to say “no” means I barely have time to slow down – let alone have uninterrupted time with God.
My schedule is also packed every day thanks to that, which makes extended time with God a herculean task.
2. I don’t rest
As someone who’s always busy with school commitments, church, family, and meeting people, I find it difficult to make time to rest.
I often go weeks without proper rest until my body finally cries for help by physically breaking down.
Physical rest aside, I also hardly made time to sit down and dwell in God’s presence.
These were core problems in my life, and I fell into a vicious cycle of fully fatiguing myself to the point of exhaustion – only to pick up from where I left off once I got better.
My chronic inability to slow down and rest in God led me to embark on a month-long experiment, in which I found three effective measures that could stop my toxic cycle.
3 things that helped me finally slow down…
1. Saying “no”
As you already know, I have problems saying “no” to meeting people, which has led me to be often overtaxed.
However, in this month of learning and forcing myself to say “no”, I have come to realise how important this one word is.
Instead of constantly and unthinkingly saying “yes” to my friends, I learnt to first take a moment to reassess the amount of time I have to recuperate – and decide from there.
Since I was interning this summer while balancing school and church commitments, nearly all my weeknights were booked.
During this month, I made it a point to set aside three days within the week to rest.
Initially, it was difficult to reject or postpone meetups in my efforts to “safeguard” rest days in my calendar.
But I was thankful doing so; most of my friends understood that I had too much on my plate and readily agreed to reschedule our meetups.
Though learning to say “no” was not easy, I came to find comfort in taking care of myself and protecting my time with God.
2. Having a “silent day”
The goal is to be able to rest, to spend extended time dwelling in God’s presence, and to really listen to Him.
I adapted this by setting aside a 24-hour Silent Day on which I wouldn’t speak to anyone.
This idea scared me at first (since I’m a “chronic talker”, according to my friends) but I soon realised how liberating it actually was.
The first few hours of the challenge were the most difficult.
I was constantly bombarded by thoughts, but I knew that I had to keep quiet if I was to give this experiment a real chance.
So I went about the rest of the day silently, and I realised that the only companion I could talk to was God – and this provided a comforting assurance.
Slowly, I found my thoughts were sharpened. They went from everyday thoughts to deeper ones formed in meditation and rumination in God.
This “Silent Day” transformed every second I spent into a part of a continuous conversation with God.
As I prayed and conversed with Him, I could also slowly hear His calming and reassuring voice with regards to whatever I was reflecting about.
Conversing with God no longer became a “structured” time in my day; it felt like I was talking to a friend and confidante as I went about my day.
Memorably, I went on an evening run with God, talking to Him about my day and reflections.
Not talking to anyone the whole time made me more aware of the beauty of God’s creation; how calming it was to spend the evening in His presence!
Becoming more conscious of God’s presence throughout the day, being able to have moments of silence and reflection with God – I was deeply comforted by my “silent day”.
3. Going on “dates” with God
Last but not least, I was challenged by my church leader to treat my time with God as a date with a friend.
“If you arrange to meet a friend, you won’t disappear at the last minute right?” she said. “So, treat your quiet time as a meeting with a friend and spend it meaningfully.”
“… treat your quiet time as a meeting with a friend and spend it meaningfully.”
With this change in perspective, I was more spending time with God more intentionally and meaningfully.
Reading His Word, praying, worshipping, just being in His presence… I grew to appreciate the moments I spent with Him.
I also had meals with God, where I intentionally went to brunch or dinner alone just to talk to God and read His Word.
And as someone who avoided going out alone, I was surprised at how joyful I was going out with God one-on-one.
What I’ve learnt about slowing down and resting in God
Over the month, my discipline to have quiet time has improved significantly; resting became synonymous with spending time with Him.
These three challenges I took on in the past month have reshaped the way I spend time and safeguard my rest with God.
All along, I had sacrificed rest in order to meet people or do work, but I realised how detrimental this is.
I learnt that rest is essential in the Bible, and that there are two types of rest:
- Shabbat: to stop working, to cease from (Genesis 2:1-3)
- Nuakh: to dwell, commune, settle in (Genesis 2:15)
To fully rest and slow down in our daily lives, we need both shabbat and nuakh.
We need to stop our work, and receive rest in God’s presence.
Rest is so important that it’s the fourth commandment in the Old Testament (Exodus 20:8-11).
Jesus asks us to rest in His presence when we’re overwhelmed or burnt out (Matthew 11:28-30, MSG).
As someone who struggles to rest, I realised that it may also come from a place of pride and of being unable to let go in the area of work – which is failing to trust in God.
However, we need to rest in God. So, let’s be intentional in slowing down and spending time with our Creator.
That’s how we rest in Him and rely on Him.
- Rest. What does it mean to you?
- How does Scripture speak about rest?
- How do these biblical definitions and principles relate with, or challenge, your understanding of it?
- What is one practical thing you can do to safeguard your rest time with God?