My Anxious, Agitated Soul

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Episode Synopsis

What brings rest to your soul? How you answer that is very important. God doesn’t want to restrain your soul—He wants to restore it.

Audio Transcript

Heidi Howerton: Hello everyone! It is so wonderful to have you here with us today. Jani and I are recording in my office. It’s a great day here in Tennessee and we’re thankful to have this time together.

Jani: Thanks for listening in. We’ve been thinking about our souls in our podcast together, that deepest and truest part of us. And during our last time together, Heidi and I asked you to go to Psalm 62:1 and meditate on it throughout your days of the week. That verse says, “My soul finds rest in God alone.” Or the ESV puts it this way: “For God alone, my soul waits in silence.”

Jani: We’ve been thinking about how our soul matters. God formed it within us. It’s the eternal part of our being. God doesn’t want to empty our souls, He wants to embrace them. He doesn’t want to exhaust our souls, He wants to energize them! He doesn’t want to restrain them, He wants to restore them. That’s the name of our podcast, “He restores my soul.” I hope today will be restoring for you.

Jani: Second Corinthians 4:16 says this, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”

What brings rest to your soul? 1:51

Jani: What brings rest to your soul? How you answer that is very important. It tells us a lot about each other, doesn’t it? How would you complete this verse: “My soul finds rest in…” What? Heidi? How would you complete that verse? What does your soul find rest in these days?

Heidi: Oh, Jani, that’s a hard one because I think it’s a lot of different things! My soul finds rest in swimming with my children. My soul finds rest in reading a good book. My soul finds rest in going boating in the summer. But I also think of when my soul is really drained. My soul really finds rest in prayer when I’m empty and I haven’t had time to spend time with the Lord and the week’s been so busy, there’s a craving and my soul of wanting to spend time with God. And so my soul also finds rest in reading his Word. My soul finds rest in just praying. My soul finds rest in pouring out my heart to God. So it’s a wide spectrum of things here on earth to deeper things in time with God.

Jani: Yeah. I think sometimes my soul finds rest in Facebook, or a good movie, or a date with Ray where he leaves his phone at home. Or See’s chocolate, a walk with our black Labrador, Nixey, but like you, Heidi, that doesn’t satisfy for very long.

Heidi: Yes, that’s exactly what I was talking about.

Jani: Yeah. My soul can’t really camp there. I don’t think those things are bad in and of themselves. They’re wonderful! They’re gifts from the Lord, especially that chocolate. But this verse is talking about something deeper, fuller, more engaging because it’s from God Almighty.

Jani: I like that phrase, those three words, “…in God alone.” I don’t know about you, Heidi, and I don’t know about our listeners, but in my own life, there have been times when my soul did not find her rest in God alone. Early on when I had just met Ray, I was a freshman at Wheaton, in college, and my soul found rest in tricking Ray into marrying me! And then my soul found rest in finally getting that teaching job I needed while Ray went to seminary. And then my soul found rest in being able to have a baby after I had miscarried. And then my soul found rest in getting the baby to sleep through the night. You know what that’s like with your three little ones. Or my soul found rest in being able to buy a home, and then being able to furnish it. Maybe a successful book contract, or losing the 10 pounds I had gained through the years. You get the idea. If my soul was looking for rest in the circumstances around me, it never really felt totally rested because once I acquired something, then there was always something else that I wanted.

The only constant in my life 5:22

Jani: Let me put it this way. I love my husband very much. Oh, Ray is just the best! Heidi, you have a great husband. Mike is wonderful, too, isn’t he?

Heidi: Yes. I’m so thankful to the Lord to be married to a man that loves Him so much.

Jani: Yes, we delight in our husbands. We treasure them, we would do anything for them, wouldn’t we?

Heidi: Yes, we would.

Jani: But someday, I hate to think of it, someday death will separate Ray and me. God is the only constant in my life. He will never leave me nor forsake me, and my soul will only truly be at rest when I find my rest in Him alone. And God’s the only constant in your life, Heidi, and in our listeners’ lives. Whatever else our souls go to for rest will eventually give way to either death or decay.

Jani: I love how the Bible invites us to find our rest in God. It makes it enticing. He’s the only one who can restore us way down deep within.

Heidi: That’s so true, Jani. I think of Psalm 16:11, “In your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Taste and See 6:41

Jani: Oh, I love that, and I love that verse in Psalm 34:8 where the psalmist says, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.” How can we taste the Lord? Isn’t that an interesting phrase? It makes me think of the difference between being told about something and really experiencing it.

Jani: I just got a new recipe for Mississippi Mud Bars. Have you ever had those?

Heidi: No, we didn’t eat those up north growing up. What are they?

Jani: Oh, they are wonderful. You start with a layer of brownie; really good, that deep dark brownie, really moist, and you can add nuts there if you want. Some people do, some people don’t.

Heidi: I’d eat it without the nuts.

Jani: Okay, my half will have nuts. You’re half won’t. And then you put a marshmallow cream over the brownie and then you make a homemade chocolate icing and put it over the top and then you let it settle. And oh they are wonderful! Now I’ve just told you about them, you can imagine them, but wouldn’t it be better if I had made some and brought them to our recording today?

Heidi: Yes! I think that would have been great, Jani! Why weren’t you been baking all day?

Jani: I should have been! It’s kind of mean for me, cruel of me to describe them, but that’s what the psalmist is saying: “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good.” Take him in. To be told is different than real tasting.

Duty or Delight 8:12

Jani: So how do we come to taste God and see that He’s good? How do we come to relish him?

Jani: Well, fortunately the Bible tells us. Jeremiah 6:16 puts it this way: “Ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” There is a pathway, a good way, that leads to rest. It’s the ancient pathway of Christ laid out before the foundation of the world, before any of us were ever even born. Now, how do we walk that path? Jesus gives us the invitation. He says, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” We follow him. We read his words, we pray to him. We meditate on his ways, but we don’t let the truths we see in scripture be the only focus of our souls rest. You see dutiful belief in God and his commandments might change our behavior, but it will never bring us soul rest. James 2:19 says, “The demons believe and shudder,” but they don’t have soul rest. They don’t know God. There’s a difference between duty and delight.

Jani: Have you ever seen Fiddler on the Roof, Heidi?

Heidi: I have. It’s a great one.

Jani: Do you remember that scene where the father is asking his wife, “Do you love me?” And she says, “I mend your clothes!” And he says, “But do you love me?”

Heidi: “I gave you 5 daughters!”

Jani: But do you love me? He’s sensing that she wants her duty to prove her love for him.

Jani: We will find soul rest when God becomes more than duty to us. When he becomes delightful to us, we need to ask him to help us. We need to ask him for that kind of delightful abounding love. The Bible says God always answers that kind of prayer. Think of Matthew 7:7,8: “Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find knock and it will be open to you. For everyone who asks receives and the one who seeks, finds and to the one who knocks, it will be opened.”

Heidi: Can I ask you quick question, Jani?

Jani: Sure.

Heidi: What would you say to the young woman that’s reading her Bible every day and wants to spend time with the Lord, but it just feels like something she’s ticking off of her list? Is it truly just sitting down and saying, “Lord, this feels like a duty. Change my heart.”

Jani: Absolutely. That’s perfect, Heidi. That’s great. It will feel like duty at times. It does for me at times, but more and more it becomes delight. I think of it even in our marriage relationships, those of us who are married know that all of marriage is not delight. Sometimes it’s duty, but more and more now I’ve been married decades, almost five decades. More and more. It becomes delight.

Heidi: I love that. That’s really helpful and encouraging. Thank you.

Jani: I think of that verse in 2 Chronicles 16:9 that says, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” Think of that. His eyes, I like that vision of his eyes flashing back and forth. God is eager to bless. Who is he eager to bless? Those whose heart is blameless. Now, of course, blameless does not mean sinless. None of us are sinless, but that means wholehearted completely his desiring him as delightful, not just as dutiful daughters. God gives strong support to those who want to delight in him.

God’s Sovereignty Part 1: I Can’t Trust Him 12:24

Jani: You may be thinking, “Well, Jani, how do I get to a place of really wanting him? And how do I stay there?”

Jani: Well, when I’m struggling to be gladly delighting in God, it’s usually because he isn’t doing things the way I would if I were God. My soul isn’t at rest with who God is in his sovereign control over my life. I’m not content with the job He’s doing at being God.

Now we’ve all heard of God’s sovereignty. We know that that is: “His exercise of rule as king over his creation.” Everyone just think about this doctrine for a while and when you do, you will come, as I have, I think, to a place where you have to say one of two things. Tell me, Heidi, if you, if you think this is right. The one place I land is, “I can’t rejoice in a God who does not act in a way that, at least in my little opinion, seems good or, or fair or loving.” Have you ever felt that way?

Heidi: I mean, yes. I know in my own cancer journey as we’ve battled or as we’ve had scans where the scans have come back good, but there’s things that they need to monitor, that’s a hard place to be. God says in Jeremiah, “I have loved you with an everlasting love,” and yet, Lord, this doesn’t feel like love.

Jani: Yes, yes. So that’s one way I know I’ve struggled in the same way.

God’s Sovereignty Part 2: I Can Trust Him 14:04

Jani: The other place that we can land when we think about God’s sovereignty is this: “Well, as God gives me faith, I will find contentment in letting God be God, and I’ll ask him to help me to trust him as my sovereign king.”

Heidi: I remember when I was diagnosed with cancer, I felt those two questions before me. I felt presented with, “I can either respond in bitterness to God and be angry over this,” or “I can trust him and ask and still let him fill my heart with joy.” And I remember in the bitterness of my heart crying out to him saying, “Lord, I feel bitter, but I don’t want to be bitter against you for the next year, the next two years. So change my heart from this bitternes to one of trusting you that you treasures for me through this hardship.” And God was so faithful to answer that prayer. When I don’t know how to change my heart, I found that he’s faithful if I ask him to help me, that he does.

Jani: Oh, that’s beautiful. How old was Gideon? You’re number three when you got your diagnosis.

Heidi: So when I had thyroid cancer, Gideon was three months. James was Fort James was 17 months and Hannah was three years old.

Jani: Tiny, tiny babies. Three under three. Just a newborn. Really? Yes. Of course you struggled. Oh my goodness, how hard.

Heidi: But God was so faithful.

Jani: Look! You’re here.

Heidi: Yes.

The Reasons we resist the Sovereignty of God 15:33

Jani: Let’s think through together, and with our listeners, some of the reasons we resist the sovereignty of God and find it hard to rest in him alone. Okay? Let’s talk about two of them today.

Jani: One of them is that we live in a broken world. Heidi, I think as women, we’re fixers. I know I am! From broken teacups to broken relationships, I want to fix things. I don’t like the brokenness I see around me, and I can’t understand sometimes why God doesn’t fix the things that are broken. Somehow, somehow, I think if I can create my picture-perfect world around me, then I’ll finally be able to relax and be happy in it. And so I work really hard at building that picture-perfect world, and I ended up, at the very least, exhausted and sometimes I even get a little depressed or angry. I ask myself, “Why? Why does the world turn out this way? Why is my life turning out this way?” And I have to answer, “Because even in the most beautiful neighborhood, in the most wonderful family, in the richest, most privileged country in the history of the world, imperfections still reign.”

Heidi: Yes, on so many levels, from the vast ones, like cancer that we were talking about, to simple ones like dogs barking in the middle of the night or neighbors doing something to hurt our feelings.

Jani: Yes. Or, you hear of teenagers getting in a tragic car accidents.

Heidi: Or husbands leaving their wives and friends playing around with other men.

Jani: Oh, that’s a hard one. Or we lose our jobs and our stock market accounts fade away. Or sometimes our, at my stage of life, retirement. Those dreams can go up in smoke because of financial loss.

Heidi: Yeah. Or the house doesn’t sell, or like we talked about, the lab report comes back with our worst fear written across it.

Jani: Yeah. You’re, you’re thinking about house selling right now.

Heidi: Yes!

Jani: Yeah. It’s crazy isn’t it?

Heidi: It is! Or as you think about buying a house or selling your house and just not knowing what the Lord’s plans are, because you could go through all the effort and listed and it might not sell and it’s a clear answer to stay.

Jani: Yes, we really think about God’s sovereignty. Sometimes I have to think about it with my grown children, and now they are having all of their children. On top of all that, there’s fighting everywhere, isn’t there? From the halls of Congress to our own churches… Heidi, all we want to do is be happy and live peaceable lives. Why is this world such a mess? Well, the Bible tells us because it’s broken. The only place where we can learn the truth about our broken world is in the Bible.

Jani: Now, some people, and I found myself slipping into this at times, some of us think that the Bible is just a book of rules. Well, it certainly does have some rules in it, doesn’t it? And they show us how life works best, and we can embrace those rules. But the Bible isn’t mainly about us and how we should behave. The Bible’s not a behavior management guide. The Bible is God’s wonderful story of his creative purposes for this world and how everything will one day culminate in a beautiful and grand and eternal celebration of how good and magnificent He is.

Jani: I love the Jesus storybook Bible. Do you Heidi?

Heidi: Yes. All three of my kids have it.

Jani: Yes. I love reading it. I wonder if you’d be willing to read a little bit about how Sally Lloyd-Jones tells us of God’s creating the world.

Heidi: Oh, Jani, that would be so much fun. What a great idea. Alright. “The Bible says that in the very beginning, God created a perfect world and he made people to share his perfect happiness and the world would be their perfect home. And everything was perfect for a while. But God had an enemy who was proud and evil and full of hate. He wanted to stop God’s plan because he wanted to be God. You know the story: Adam and Eve lived in a perfect garden. God had given them only one rule: ‘Don’t eat from that one tree because if you do, you will think you know everything and you will stop trusting me and then death and sadness and tears will come.’ You See, God knew that if they ate the fruit, they would think that they didn’t need him and they would try to make themselves happy without him. But God knew that there was no happiness without Him and that life without Him wouldn’t be life at all.”

Jani: Hmm. Adam and Eve doubted God, didn’t they? They believed—and this is what I do sometimes, too—they believed what they should have doubted and they doubted what they should have believed. They doubted God and believed his enemy, and they ate the fruit. And when they did, the biggest lie in the universe became believable to them: God doesn’t love me. By believing that lie, they had broken their relationship with God, and then everything else started to break and unravel and come undone and go wrong. From then on, everything would die even though it was supposed to last forever. And now we live in this broken world.

Jani: Are you a fixer, too, like me? I don’t like things that are broken. I’m always trying to fix things. But there is no way that we can fix this broken, dying, imperfect world we live in, and that makes us either angry or afraid.

What brings rest to your soul? 21:42

Jani: As we close today, we want you to think about what brings rest to your soul. Do you waver between delight and duty in your relationship with God?

Jani: Heidi and I want to ask you to go back to Psalm 62:1: “My soul finds rest in God alone.” Read it everyday for a week. Read it often each day. Ask God to write it on your heart and to make it true for you. And as you do, throughout your week, remember God’s words to us through Jeremiah the prophet in chapter 31: “For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.” [inaudible]

Thank You

Thank you for joining us today. To discover more about Jani and Ray, visit their webpage at renewalministries.com. If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at herestoresmysoul.org.

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He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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