The other day, as we were driving to a friend's house for dinner, our car began to overheat. This is our first car and with our limited knowledge about cars, we missed the warning signs. We noticed the problem only when smoke began to float up from the hood of our car. We pulled over quickly, not understanding what went wrong, just thankful that we were safe. We found out later that the radiator fan was not working and this led to overheating, causing the coolant to leak. For those like me who are completely ignorant about the inner working of cars, what happened was that there was no way for the car to cool down as the cooling mechanisms failed. This caused overheating, making the car ineffective and even dangerous if left unchecked.
This incident made me think of how each one of us also needs to have 'cooling agents' in our life. Often, we can go through life being so busy and occupied that we ignore our need for rest, refreshment and renewal. This can lead to frustration and lack of effectiveness in what God calls us to do. In some cases, it can even lead to burn out. It is important to make time to refresh our bodies, minds and souls for us to function optimally – physically, mentally and spiritually. How we do this may differ for each one of us, but we need to be intentional about it and be able to recognise signs of overheating in our lives.
This is a truth that has revisited me in the recently. This past month has been exhausting in so many ways. I often struggle to say "no" to people, but my exhaustion led me to decline even the invitations that would normally excite me. I would wake up tired, drag myself through the day and go to bed exhausted. On some days, I was snappy and unpleasant to be around. My productivity kept decreasing while my stress levels kept increasing.
It was only after all this that I realized how much I needed to be refreshed. I thought about it and began to identify what refreshes me.
Music is one of those things. There's something about music that makes my weary body come alive. Singing with friends makes my face light up. And lifting my voice to God in worship and song refreshes me instantly and my cares begin to melt away. My husband and I often steal some time to worship God and pray together after the kids are asleep. Pouring my heart out to the Lord in song or prayer relieves my stress and fills me with His peace.
Family is another blessing that helps refresh me. There is nothing more pleasant than watching my daughters play and care for each other. I love the sound of their laughter and their cheerful songs. Being able to spend time with them helps me see glimpses of the beauty of God's creation and I marvel at how wonderfully He has made each one of us.
But one medium of refreshment that has been on my mind lately is the precious friendships that God has given me. I'm blessed to be part of a loving and serving community. Here are a few examples of how they bless me and enrich my life.
They've accepted me as I am. I can relax and unwind, knowing I am accepted just as I am. A family that we love dearly moved to our city a few months ago and meeting them is always such a joy. We know we are loved and that their home and hearts are always open to us, no matter what. When we part ways, we always feel so refreshed and encouraged by their love for us and for the Lord.
They walk with us through life's circumstances. I am so refreshed and encouraged by the lovely women the Lord has brought into my life. They've loved and supported me and my family, helped me with parenting advice, encouraged me to be a better wife, and been there in person or are just a call/text message away whatever my question or struggle may be.
"The heart is delighted by the fragrance of oil and sweet perfumes, and in just the same way, the soul is sweetened by the wise counsel of a friend" (Proverbs 27:9).
They pray for us. We are indebted to our families and friends who have invested in our lives in such a powerful way. Though often unseen, prayer is one of the most precious gifts one can give and our hearts are encouraged knowing someone is praying for us.
They understood my untold needs and helped out wherever they could. We've enjoyed people stepping in and helping out in many ways - with the dishes, bringing food for our bible study meeting, reading to our kids and babysitting them when I needed a break, or texting me to ask what help I needed, and even taking care of us in times of illness. A helping hand gives great comfort to the heart.
The more I think about it, the more I realise that these wonderful people refresh my soul because they are showing me Christlike love in different ways. The love I am experiencing is because of He who is living in them. Jesus loves me as I am, unconditionally, even dying for me when I lived in sin and darkness, in enmity with God. I am His child and I face no more condemnation, because I am fully accepted in Christ. He walks with me and I am sealed with His spirit till the day of redemption. Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 7:25 tell me that Jesus is now at the right hand of God, interceding for me. He is my ever present help in trouble, the One who can supply all my needs according to His riches in glory.
As I think of the friends I have and the people whose lives God has placed me in, I wonder if I am a source of refreshment to them. I hope and pray that as a child of the Lord, the love of Jesus may overflow from my life to the lives of the people I interact with, and that they may leave feeling refreshed, giving Him glory.
Have you been a source of refreshment to someone lately, through Christ who lives in you?