Can I Calm My Restless Soul? With Wendy Blight [Episode 283]

Calm Restless Soul Wendy Blight

Have you ever been in a constant state of unsettledness? It’s like your soul has been taken hostage by your emotions or circumstances, and you just can’t break free!

Whether it shows up as anxiety, fear, panic attacks, or a mind that never stops racing, it can seem hopeless, can’t it?

Well today on the 4:13, author Wendy Blight shares how you can replace your restlessness with rest! As we talk about her book, Rest for Your Soul: A Bible Study on Solitude, Silence, and Prayer, Wendy will teach you three holy habits to help you transform your mind, quiet your heart, and still your soul.

She’ll equip you to find God in the middle of any dark place and then slowly shift your perspective to fix your eyes on Him and His Word.

Meet Wendy

Wendy Blight is the Biblical Content Specialist for Proverbs 31 Ministries. She is a wife and mom, Bible teacher, attorney, and author of several books, including Rest for Your Soul, I Know His Name, Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner, and many more.

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Episode Transcript

4:13 Podcast: Can I Calm My Restless Soul? With Wendy Blight [Episode 283]

Wendy Blight: Quite often we just place our hope in our circumstances and we just want everything to be perfect and working well right now. And we can't do that. That kind of hope, that kind of desiring fails every time. We have to tie that to God and the promises sitting in His Word. And I knew those things, Jennifer, but I got lost in them because of that unsettledness. Because here's what I learned: it didn't so much control my life as it controlled my mind. And then my mind controlled my thoughts, and then my thoughts controlled my actions, and all of those things controlled my life. So I had to change my mind before I could quiet my heart and still my soul.

Jennifer Rothschild: All right, 4:13ers, I want you to listen to this. This was written about today's 4:13 guest. "Author Wendy Blight gets right to my heart with her sound Biblical insight and her practical applications because she lives out what she teaches. So if you deal with all the things that come with being human, like anxiety, uncertainty, or weariness, let Wendy walk you back to rest." You know who wrote that? Me. And I stand by every single word. And that is why I am so pumped that you get to hear from author Wendy Blight today. She's already been on our podcast before. It was episode 59, and it was about breaking the stronghold of fear. And you guys really loved it, because that episode, it stayed in the top 10 for an entire year. So today she is going to help you replace restlessness with rest by teaching you three holy habits. So good. So here we go.

K.C. Wright: You should have said, "I'm Jennifer Rothschild and I approve of this message."

Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, I -- that would have been more creative. Would you please write my scripts for me.

K.C. Wright: Welcome to the 4:13 Podcast, where practical encouragement and Biblical wisdom set you and I up to live the "I Can" life, because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

Now, welcome your host, Jennifer Rothschild.

Jennifer Rothschild: Hey, our friends. I am Jennifer, and I do approve of this message, and I approve of my co-host. That's K.C. Wright. And it's two friends here in the closet, with one topic and zero stress. And we're just here to help you be and do all that God has created you to be as you live the "I Can" life of Philippians 4:13. He really does empower us, our friends, to be and do all that he's created us to be.

And I'm so happy we're starting off this new year. We're finally in February and my husband has been very busy cleaning, cleaning out.

K.C. Wright: Ooh.

Jennifer Rothschild: So I'm the kind -- you might be this way too, K.C. I don't keep things super long. Like, they have a six-month shelf life in my life. If I don't use it, it's gone. Okay. Well, I am married to someone who keeps things for six years. Or maybe 60, I don't know. Okay. But anyway, he has boxes in closets and everything, and he has decided he's clearing out, which is really great.

K.C. Wright: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: Except he's slower about it than I would be. So our dining room table has been covered with clutter. Like, I need to have a dinner party just so he will get the stuff off the dining room table. And I'm like, "What is this, and how much longer?" And he's like, "Well, it's Project Cleanout?" And I'm like, "Well, yeah, it feels like" -- some of you olders will recognize this -- "it feels like Project Sanford and Son." Do you remember that show?

K.C. Wright: Vaguely.

Jennifer Rothschild: They collected junk.

K.C. Wright: Oh, okay.

Jennifer Rothschild: Junk. All over the front porch. Junk, junk, junk everywhere.

K.C. Wright: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: Now, he doesn't have junk, he really doesn't.

K.C. Wright: No.

Jennifer Rothschild: But when it's where it's not supposed to be, in my world it is junk. So I am just going to say, 4:13ers, I'm inviting you all to dinner by next week so hopefully I can get the table back.

K.C. Wright: And is it really selfish of me to be thinking, wow, what are they going to give me? Because here's something you don't know about, J.R. Well, you do know this. But here's a personal thing. She has a heart bigger than a giant. You already know that from the 4:13 and her conferences. But she is such a giver. And there have been times where she has cleaned out rooms and then she gives me all these treasures.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, you're eating off my old dishes.

K.C. Wright: Yeah. Because she's like, hey, it's either the Goodwill or the K-Dog. "K.C., would you like this?" And guess what? I never say no. Or I know someone who can have them as well.

Jennifer Rothschild: Right. Well, and my dishes were still good. They were red. And I had had them for 10 years and I was tired of red.

K.C. Wright: I hear ya.

Jennifer Rothschild: So I just got new ones. Because I thought, you know what, I've been a good steward.

K.C. Wright: And you passed the wealth on.

Jennifer Rothschild: I did.

K.C. Wright: Yeah, you're a -- she's a huge giver. Huge.

Jennifer Rothschild: Anyway, don't assume that's just because I'm altruistic. It is because I want to get rid of stuff. But that does bring rest for my soul. I will be very honest, it does. Because house clutter makes my spirit feel cluttered. And I do need to balance that, I really do. And I have over the years, but it definitely is my thing.

So I'm glad we get to hear from Wendy, because she's talking about a restless soul and finding rest. But I found it very helpful and practical, these three holy habits that she's going to share. So let's get to hearing from Wendy Blight.

K.C. Wright: Wendy Blight is the Biblical Content Specialist for Proverbs 31 Ministries. She's a wife and a mama, Bible teacher, attorney, and author of several books, including "Rest for Your Soul," "I Know His Name," "Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner," and many, many more.

Now, settle back, enjoy, enjoy this life-giving conversation.

Jennifer Rothschild: All right, Wendy, I'm so happy that you are back again. I already mentioned, when I introduced you earlier, that your episode on fear was in our top 10 forever because it was just so effective. And anything you write about, you always do such a good job to have such balance and integrity and warmth. And this book is no exception, so I'm very excited we get to talk about it. So here we go.

Because you mention in your book -- which by the way -- let me remind our listeners -- is called "Rest for Your Soul" -- that you had to take your eyes off yourself and your deep unsettledness and turn them toward Jesus. So let's kind of get personal right away so that we can all relate. Why were you unsettled? What was going on?

Wendy Blight: Well, the biggest reason is because anxiety had hijacked my life, meaning it completely took over every aspect. Even the thought, Jennifer, of leaving my house brought severe panic attacks. Engaging with people in any manner, form overwhelmed me. I struggled even with the smallest of tasks I had to do. I cried more than I didn't. I couldn't sleep very well.

But then come these weird emotions that accompany that as someone who's a Christian. Right? So shame came. Like, You're a Christian, you shouldn't struggle with this. You should trust the Bible, you believe in the Bible. God is enough. And, yes, that's all true. But you know what? I felt like my faith was failing me. And I think on the other side of it, I might have learned I was failing my faith. But at the time it was then guilt. Because I'm a Bible teacher, right? And I'd been doing that for over a decade. I've written several books on how to overcome fear, and Bible studies. And I had my book "1 John" coming out as this was happening, so then I felt like an imposter.

So when things didn't change and improve, I went to my internist -- because I also had all these physical symptoms of anxiety that I didn't know -- I thought there was something wrong with me. Digestive issues and body aches, pains, racing heart rates, all those things. But she said, "You know what, Wendy, you have severe anxiety and you need to go see a counselor." I had never done that before. And thankfully my church had one, and I took this brave step, which was very brave to me, to sort of reach out.

And my counselor, whose name was Rebecca, she listened and she prayed together. She invited God in, kind of like we do when we pray. And then she just said, "Wendy" -- Jennifer, I went in thinking this was going to be a quick fix. Like, after a few visits I'd get some good tips and tools and my anxiety would go away and I'd go back to normal. But when she spoke these words, it just broke my heart. She goes, "This is going to take time and hard work." And she said, "You have to" -- and these were the words that I took to heart. "You have to spend time in quiet places where you can open up unattended chapters and stories in your life and deal with them one by one." And it made me so uncomfortable because I knew being alone with my thoughts was only going to increase my anxiety, because that's what I was already doing.

Jennifer Rothschild: Right.

Wendy Blight: But what I learned to do is what this book is about, and that is I committed to try be still times with God. That's what I called them, sacred pauses with the Lord.

And so in the beginning, it was just a new routine. Every night I went up to my room with my Bible, with my journal, with no agenda, which I didn't want to do because then I was going to be alone with everything. I'd rather have the TV on or worship music on. Plus I was mad at God. I thought he'd forgotten me and he didn't see me, and so I kind of didn't want to show up. But I went out of obedience because I do know that he blesses obedience. And this is the place, Jennifer, that I really dive into sort of. I tell the story of how I got there, but then what lifted me out of all of it.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay. So this is probably hitting very close to home for a lot of us. And so, yeah, I kind of -- my heart started to race just a little bit when you talked about even being alone with these unattended stories in solitude and silence. That's scary, Wendy.

And as your counselor said, it's going to take hard work. So my question to you is this. Even though you were obedient in doing this, did it get worse before it got better? Was it hard before it got easy?

Wendy Blight: Yes. It was very hard. Because first of all, there were things I really didn't want to look at from my past. There were things in my current life with -- not people in my immediate family, but family members, and it was all hard. And I think the thing is my soul felt so unsettled and my mind so scattered, and I -- quite often we just place our hope in our circumstances and we just want everything to be perfect and working well right now. And we can't do that. That kind of hope, that kind of desiring fails every time. We have to tie that to God and the promises sitting in His Word. And I knew those things, Jennifer, but I got lost in them because of that unsettledness.

Because here's what I learned. It didn't so much control my life as it controlled my mind. And then my mind controlled my thoughts, and then my thoughts controlled my actions, and all of those things controlled my life. So I had to change my mind before I could quiet my heart and still my soul.

Jennifer Rothschild: That's huge. I mean, that is huge. And it reminds me of that old John Stott quote, you know, that if you would sow -- as in plant -- a thought, you know, that you will reap an action. And then you sow that action, you reap a habit. You sow that habit, you reap a character. And then you sow that character and you reap a destiny.

So you're right, your whole life, your destiny, is dependent on those thoughts. And that's hard to change that framework, especially when your body's involved and your heart's racing and your mind is scattered.

Wendy Blight: So what I did was I wrote in my journal that night my goal was to renew my mind. My how was to retrain my brain to replace negative thoughts that were holding it captive with the thoughts of the good things of God. And then my why, that was going to be the quiet my heart and still my soul. And so though a lot of this book talks about retraining our brain spiritually, I learned something I never knew biologically physically about the brain, and I would love to just share that little nugget with you.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

Wendy Blight: Because I learned this fancy new word I didn't know called neuroplasticity, and it refers to the brain's malleability, which just means its ability to change something. And it can be changed from the outside in. And so of the 86 billion neurons that we have in our body, they literally have the capacity to change the pathways they follow. Like, we can even create new connections and new pathways.

And so all the science is complicated, but here's Wendy's translation to myself. Elohim, who we all know is God, our all-knowing Creator, he designed our brain to adapt to this kind of emotional trauma. So we can do that. We can change our brain's physical structure by making new connections. And some of those can -- we can even eliminate the bad ones. So how do we do that? First of all, it takes hard work. And we have to spend time doing things like solitude, silence, and prayer. But through those sacred pauses, we're doing just what God made our brains to do to make new connections to lead to places of wholeness and healing and peace.

So these sacred pauses, those times when I didn't want to sit alone -- and I sometimes would fail, you know, I would. I would just get frustrated. But the more I made the commitment, the more I began to retrain my brain and renew my mind and pruned away so many of those unhealthy things. And what does that remind you of? Romans 12:2, renewing our minds. And that's what's so cool about God's Word, that it really does go with the way he created us. We can do this because he made us to do it.

Jennifer Rothschild: That's so good, Wendy. And I like your translation of the neurology right there. You know, my -- even more dumbed down is this idea that you really can teach an old dog new tricks. God made us to learn -- well, and when you think about it, Wendy, His Word is alive. So, of course, it's going to bring life to us and new life into these places that have maybe not had healthy life.

And you just kind of sped through this, so I want to -- these habits. So I want to kind of talk about that just a little bit. Because in your book, you do explore these habits. You call them holy habits. You just mentioned them. But I want you to tell us again what they are and how you began to kind of execute these habits.

Wendy Blight: Oh, wow. One thing I do want to say is I -- one thing really important is about Jesus in Matthew 26 when he's walking into the Garden of Gethsemane. This is one of those holy habits. Because we see him -- you know, he's walking into the most difficult assignment he's ever had. Persecution, pain, and suffering were ahead of him. And when we see Jesus doing something right, we want to watch him and learn from him and pay attention to what he says. And it tells us that he went deep into the garden alone to pray and to sit quietly with his father and wrestle through what he feels like. And so when I talk about these things like solitude and silence and prayer, those are all things that we watched Jesus do. And so if I want to just talk about solitude and silence -- because they're similar, right?

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, yeah.

Wendy Blight: They're not the same. I call them cousins. But both of them practice not doing something. They do it differently. So solitude creates this space for growth, and we temporarily remove ourselves from the immediate presence of people and activities to be with God. So those are things like study Scripture, read a book, listen to worship music, take a long walk, ride a bike. So people might be around us, but we're alone with ourselves, you know, doing an activity.

And in the book, the way we do this is -- I have Scripture memory, 12 Scriptures I help you memorize. Do mini teachings on them, ask you questions about them. We also do a mini Bible study that I take you through. Those are ways to do solitude.

But silence goes even deeper than solitude, because it creates this inner space to hear God's voice because we're alone. Like, no one's around us. We go somewhere, we're by ourselves where nothing can distract us. And in the beginning, I'm going to tell you it's intimidating and it's scary because we're alone with our thoughts. And I didn't want to be alone with them. And they would get louder. And in the chapters, I spend time helping us learn and meditate on the names of God and the attributes of God and going deeper in prayer. Those are the ways we can be alone.

And this study, it's not a sprint, it's a step-by-step, day-by-day journey. But I promise -- I can promise you this because I lived it. Silence, when you fully engage with it, it just -- you're alone with God, it loosens the grip our dark thoughts have on us and the voices that we're hearing that are from the enemy, and then it creates space for us to then bring in what we've been studying and learning in that solitude time and in that silent time. And it wasn't until I intentionally committed to these that I realized how rarely I experienced either one because I didn't like silence.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. And I think most of us intuitively avoid it for the reasons you described.

And so you're calling this your sacred pauses. And so you clearly made time. And I assume you still do make time for these sacred pauses each day. So tell us how we do that. Because some people are thinking, I do not have time to unearth the nonsense that I've been trying to keep at bay, and I also don't have time in my busy schedule to take these sacred pauses. So how do we do this in a very practical way that feels safe to us and doable?

Wendy Blight: I'm just going to say it. I mean, it's really hard, but -- it's hard work. I mean, you have to say I'm making this a priority because I'm tired of living in my anxiety. I'm tired of something else controlling my life other than God and other than my faith. And so if God's telling us throughout Scripture, be still, stop and rest, Jesus is doing it, then we need to do it.

And so in each chapter, the way I think about it is I give you -- in one chapter we have 12 Scriptures to memorize. Now, you can pick one, you can pick two. Then we study the attributes of God. And once again, when I teach you about an attribute of God, there's a question that goes with it that you can ponder in quiet time.

When we go through the Bible study, we walk through it and it's -- you just go step by step reading the Scripture, how do you read Scripture? So it's like kind of like this -- you know, I don't like the word "spiritual disciplines" -- and some people call them holy habits -- but there's a reason that God calls us to these. And so how do you do it? You have to find a time each day. And for me, what was easier in the beginning for me was memorizing Scripture because it was active. It was something I could do.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, you're doing something.

Wendy Blight: And it was not scary. And I want to encourage you to invite a friend to do this with you. Because my friend Nancy and I started doing this together two years ago -- or two and a half years ago, I think. And we sit together about five times a year with our Scriptures. We just sat together the other day and we each had 52 Scriptures memorized. If you would have told -- and, I mean, sometimes they're passages. And if you would have ever told me I could have done that. But that's what saved my life. Because that is manna to our souls. That feeds us.

And then the blessing of memorizing Scripture is that on the other side of it, you can in a moment's notice minister to someone with the Scripture that's in your heart. And it sounds hard, but, yes, it's because -- now, is this perfect? I'm not going to tell you that I live every day right now, Jennifer, with a settled soul. But here's the thing. When those emotions sneak up on me, I have truths, I have tools, I have Scriptures, I have sacred pauses that I can take, prayers I can pray to refresh and restore my soul. So I know I'll never go back where I was because I can arrest it in the middle of it. And that's what's so important.

So do I do everything as faithfully as I did in the beginning? No. But do I at least probably four to five times a week engage in this activity? Even if it's five minutes sometimes. None of this took me -- you know, in the beginning it did because I needed that. I would spend 30 minutes or an hour. But I don't do that anymore because I don't need it as much. But I still know I need to engage in these as the Lord leads me.

Jennifer Rothschild: That's so good. And I'm glad you also said that you still have days of unsettledness, because this wasn't a magic pill.

Wendy Blight: No, it's not.

Jennifer Rothschild: And that's super helpful to hear, because I think sometimes we're so geared toward give me the formula so I can follow it and get a perfect outcome. And it's just not that way.

But here's the question. So if we develop these habits, what could we expect to happen? Like, for you personally, what did you notice when you first began to notice a breakthrough? What was it? Like, what began to happen and how did your life change?

Wendy Blight: I think the biggest thing, Jennifer, was in the relationship that I was struggling with in my family situation. As I studied the Word about God and compassion, I realized, you know what, even if you struggle with the hurt people have caused you in your life, you can pray for things. And praying for compassion when I had and have to interact with this person changed everything.

But if I hadn't sat down to just wrestle through my emotions and why the hurt has been allowed in my life and things like that, I would never have gotten to a place to let the Lord tell me, "You can have compassion for someone you struggle to love. I'm the God of compassion. You have compassion in you." And it's changed everything. That's a very practical example of where being still -- is it an easy relationship still? Huh-uh, it's not. But God has changed my heart. And it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't taken time to be still. So that's one example.

But also just the peace that I have when life is swirling around me. It takes a lot now to pull me into a place where I'm going, uh-oh, I better go do this right now. I just know when I feel it coming, I go right to those things that we've been talking about. Not all of them. I just pick the ones that the Lord lays on my heart.

Jennifer Rothschild: At work at the moment, yeah.

Wendy Blight: Yeah, exactly. But the daily thing in the beginning, it should be almost every day. You could do morning, you could do night, you could do it at lunch. But I will tell you, morning time and nighttime are so sweet because it's more still and quiet. But if you're a busy mom or you work full time, it doesn't matter when you do it. Just find time to sit with the Lord in these sacred pauses.

Literally it's -- the way I put this, Jennifer, is -- in the beginning it's not very spiritual. It's obedience. But later on, I longed for the pondering and the thinking and the listening and the resting. Like, I could lay in my bed -- and there was one moment I told my husband -- I was by myself, and I did that for about two minutes where I wasn't thinking, I wasn't listening, I wasn't reading. I was just laying there saying, "Lord, please let me experience you." And, Jennifer, I felt this warmth throughout my whole body. I've never felt it again like that. But I would never have had that. And it lasted me for weeks. Like, I just never forget that feeling. And I just need to make more time, because he wants to come and be with us.

Jennifer Rothschild: That's beautiful and so encouraging. And what I'm also hearing in your voice -- for the listeners who might be longing for this but feeling a little uneasy, what I heard in your voice is the Shepherd, the sheltering effect of the Shepherd, that it really is safe even if it feels uncomfortable.

So we're going to get to the last question. And, Wendy, I do want to say I'm grateful for your book, because what I've also heard is that your book becomes a companion in this process. And you're not saying, you know, just dive out into the middle of the ocean. You're saying, no, let's jump in together and I'll give you a little safety raft here to keep you feeling like you're floating. And that's important because it feels unchartered to so many people.

So you mentioned -- this will be our last question. You mentioned the importance of solitude and silence, and you kind of differentiate it. But then that third holy habit is prayer. Okay. So how do the three of these mingle? How would you suggest that when a person -- she doesn't have your book yet, but she's -- her heart's racing because she's feeling like this is what she has longed for. She's been struggling with anxiety, she needs this, the unsettledness. How would you suggest she engages in prayer, when this podcast ends, and then begins that process of silence and solitude?

Wendy Blight: Well, it would be being in God's Word. That's what I have to say. Because it's the easiest place for us to go when we're believers, is to plant our little hearts right in the Word of God.

And, Jennifer, I'm going to go back to a truth challenge you did a long time ago with "Me, Myself & Lies" years ago. And do you remember you talked about thought closets and taking our thought captive?

Jennifer Rothschild: Yep.

Wendy Blight: And that when we give permission for these feelings of anxiety and all of that to plant these deep roots -- 2 Corinthians 10:5, I would tell everyone to make this the first Scripture memory you do. But you go beyond that. You don't just say, okay, so it says take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. We're going to demolish arguments, pretensions, and everything that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive. But how do we do that? By praying the Word of God.

So when we're in Scripture, finding the places in your life -- let's say it's anxiety. For me it was -- I looked for "worry" and "peace" and "anxiety," "anxious." Any of those words you can do a Google search. You find those, find Scriptures that talk about that. So let's say Isaiah 26:3. That was the very first word that I found when I googled. And it has become the prayer I begin every day with for the last three years since I learned it that first day when I was doing all this up in my room, feeling so alone, feeling so hopeless. And it says, "He will keep in perfect peace the one whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in him. Trust in the Lord always. He is the Eternal Rock." But instead I prayed that and I said, "Lord, I will trust in you always. I will keep my heart steadfast. I will fix my eyes on you because I know that when I do, you will bring your peace. You are my Eternal Rock." You just take those Scriptures and you pray them. You personalize them. And those living and active words you mentioned, Jennifer, they begin to come alive inside of us.

So I would say you go to God's Word, find Scriptures -- and also find Scriptures about the majesty of God, the holiness of God, and then you can find those and then start praising them through your prayers.

Jennifer Rothschild: It is God's Word that gives you life, that brings you back to life, and heals your life, because God's Word is alive. So do what Wendy said. Even if you just pick one Scripture and start your day praying it, God is going to use it to settle your soul.

K.C. Wright: So good. So, so good. And, of course, if you're like me and you just heard this conversation, you want Wendy's book now.

Jennifer Rothschild: Right?

K.C. Wright: I'm a book nerd, so I want all the books, right? And you can never have enough. But it can be the companion you need to start this journey of solitude, silence, and, most importantly, prayer, because prayer changes everything. We'll have a link to it, plus Wendy's other 4:13 episode on the Show Notes right now just for you.

So, our people, until next week, love the Word and live in the Word. You can, because you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. I can.

Jennifer Rothschild: I can.

Jennifer and K.C.: And you can.

Jennifer Rothschild: All right, K.C., why don't we just go up to my dining room table and you can go shopping? I don't think Phil would like that. Don't listen, honey. I'm just kidding.


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