Grace: Accepting Jesus’ Invitation to Rest
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NKJV)
For many of us, the holiday season comes with heightened levels of activity. We incorporate recitals, dinners, guests, shopping, and special meals into our hectic days. It’s a nonstop endeavor to handle several things at once.
Is there a way to balance our obligations? To make taking care of our bodies a priority? To stop grabbing sleep or meals whenever we can find the time?
How can we accept the Lord’s invitation? To seek Him during the hectic days ahead?
I constantly struggle in this area.
I use to-do lists and goals (daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, etc.) to structure my life. At one time, my doctor labeled me “Type A Personality,” and I remember thinking, “And the problem is what?”
That was years ago, but recently, I thought about the doctor’s warning me about the hazards of planning each second of my day; of trying to maintain a tight schedule; and of the undue stress I put on myself.
Those were the days I relied on a pill sorter to keep track of daily medication doses; and electronic impulses to force my muscles to relax; and breathing techniques or other relaxation methods to keep my body from locking up.
I’m sure I resembled a little hamster on her wheel – running faster and faster in a circle without making progress. I couldn’t think of ways to change my life; to alter my routine; to relax amid so many obligations and demands.
I knew I couldn’t continue the frenetic pace, and my doctor confirmed what I already knew. “You need sleep. Stop internalizing your stress.” She added, “Keep a daily journal. Record pain levels, food intake, stress, and rest.”
I agreed to do it because I hoped to recognize a pattern and find a remedy.
I meditated on Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
I took an honest look at my life. I finally linked my thoughts to the way I took care of myself. I had to accept the necessity of taking time for myself and to genuinely view my body as God’s dwelling place (Romans 12:1).
It may seem odd, but I prayed for help – help to take time for myself, help to rest, help to free myself from the burden of guilt whenever I took the time I needed. I especially prayed for the ability to be gracious to myself.
During those days, many “things” occupied my time, and I was scared to eliminate anything or take a break. I’d be out of the loop. What if I missed something or if someone needed me? How could I just stop everything and disappoint them?
My panic led me to Matthew 11:28-29, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
“Lord, help me rest,” I prayed.
Yes, He gave me rest, but it was not in the way I imagined. I developed a painful nerve issue with my feet. I couldn’t put my full weight on them. I needed assistance to walk. At the same time, my back muscles kept me immobile.
Norman carried me up or down the stairs. When he was at work, I remained upstairs, away from the center of activity. If I wasn’t down there, I wouldn’t know what was going on. I missed the dishes in the sink; the books, socks, or jackets out of place in the den; the junk mail on the table; the towels piled in the laundry room.
I spent weeks in the bed, flat on my back with my feet propped up, but I didn’t relax. I worried.
That’s when I sensed Spirit of God, gently encouraging me, to let go. To put my trust in God. To relax and rest.
Maybe you’ve never been a workaholic, a planner, a micro-manager, a down to the dot organizer, and you can’t relate to my struggle. So, I’ll be honest with you. Letting go hurt.
I experienced anxiety, fear, and anger. I sank into despair until I finally exhausted myself and surrendered. I let go and allowed God to heal me through R-E-S-T.
For the first time, I had plenty of quiet moments for reflection; periods of uninterrupted prayer; hours to read, study, and meditate on the Word; and countless opportunities for praise and worship.
I spent time dwelling on God and felt my emotional afflictions loosening their grip. The word of God silenced the tormenting thoughts and fears, and His peace flooded my soul (Philippians 4:6-7). I fought daily. Each morning I asked God to help me rest and to help me listen to my body. He remained faithful.
If I had to turn off the television at 7:30 each night to guarantee a good night’s sleep, I did it. If I had to turn off the ringer on the phone off to take a nap, I did it. If we had to have take-out three nights a week, I allowed it.
I relearned the art of listening to my body’s signals – knowing when to rest, when to sleep, when to eat.
That was many years ago, however, I still fight to maintain balance in my life, especially where my health is concerned. Even though I know that a lot of my stress comes from my need to control things, I must constantly remind myself to let God have the complete reign in my life. And the beautiful thing about allowing Him to be Lord over every area is the feeling of freedom, the sense of contentment and renewed energy that I experience.
I wonder, have you ever been like me? Are there areas in your life that you can’t seem to give to God? Things you find yourself stressing over? Could those feelings of stress, of being overwhelmed, actually stem from refusing to let God have His way in your life?
Sometimes, our times of stress and struggle can be compared to a toddler who’s seeking independence. There may be tantrums and tears, pushing and pulling. Then resignation, defeat, or exhaustion take over. And finally, peace when the parent steps in. The parent’s control ultimately leads to a return to happiness, joy, tranquility as the child forgets the power struggle.
As parents, we know what’s best for our children, even when they doubt our decisions. So, we must ask ourselves if we believe God is much wiser than us (Isaiah 55:8-9). Can we learn to humble ourselves, trust Him, and have the child-like faith that Jesus talked about (Matthew 18:1-3, Mark 10:13-16)?
Is it time to stop the struggle? To get off the fast-track? To slow down and enjoy life?
God wants us to be whole in every area and to live abundant lives (John 10:10). When every second is crammed with activity, our minds become cluttered; our judgment skewed; our health compromised; our emotions volatile. We feel pulled in every direction, overwhelmed by our obligations, and frustrated with the lack of time.
In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus invites us to come to Him when we’re tired and weary. He offers rest for our souls.
Will you allow the Lord to restore you? To refresh you? Will you trade your burden for His peace? And will you seek Him to “bring you good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:1-14) every day of your life?