I read this last night in The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge, and it spoke to where I feel myself to be right now.
“‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,’ says Jesus. Most of us think of spiritual progress as requiring us to do more, even as our heart cries out to us to lay our burdens down. We renew our efforts at Bible study, Scripture memory, and Christian service, fearing that we will be discovered in our weakness and need… So many of our contemporary churches operate on this same system of guilt. When our people are crying out for communion and rest, we ask them to teach another Sunday school class. When they falter under the load, we admonish them with Scripture on serving others. One wonders what would happen if all activity motivated by this type of guilt were to cease for six months. Much of organized Christianity would collapse even as the Pharisees saw happen to their own religious system” (168-170).
There’s a lot of truth to that. I wonder if many of us (individually and collectively) are simply trying to do too much? We see the struggles of our churches and ministries and we feel a vague sense of guilt about not being able to do all that we believe God has called us to do—from the “little” things like staffing the nursery to the bigger picture of evangelism, discipleship, etc. If it’s true that in many churches 10% of the people do 90% of the work, those 10% can easily burn themselves out trying to keep things going.
If Jesus has promised rest to those who come to Him, why does rest feel like a foreign concept? Why is exhaustion so close at hand? Why does guilt seem to be such a big motivator? Somehow I think we’ve imagined that the apostle Paul’s description of his ministry is supposed to be ours as well: “by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger” (2 Corinthians 6:4-5; see also 11:25-29). I don’t know how Paul did it, but I don’t have the physical, mental, or emotional stamina to do even a fraction of what he did.
Today I read this in an article from John Piper:
“These illnesses may come, and we still win. The sickness may come, senility may come, and we still win. It is possible for the unhealthy to win the fight against unbelief because the fight is against lost hope, lost faith, not against lost health… The fight is a fight of faith. It’s not a fight to get out of bed; it’s a fight to rest in God. It’s not a fight to keep all the powers of youth, but to trust in the power of God. The race is run against doubt in God’s goodness and love for us. It’s a fight to stay satisfied in God despite the broken hips and lost sight and failed memory and inexplicable fatigue… The finishing line is crossed in the end not by a burst of human energy, but by collapsing into the arms of God. And by all means, let those of us who have any energy left remember that we are called upon to, as Paul says, ‘encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all’ (1 Thessalonians 5:14).”
So for all of us who feel weary and burdened by ministry and by life, I offer the encouragement that Jesus offered, “Come to Me and rest.” He didn’t say, “Come on, you can do five more tasks today, share the Gospel with one person every day, attend three more church events this week, and be the perfect parent, pastor, and teacher!” Jesus understands weariness. After all, He was the one who fell asleep in a boat in the midst of a storm.
It’s okay that “even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted” (Isaiah 40:30), because “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary” (40:28). When we collapse into bed tonight, God is still in control. May we find rest in His embrace.
“My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth … He who keeps you will not slumber … The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore” (Psalm 121:2, 3, 8 ESV).
© 2018 Dawn Rutan. Image copyright free from pixabay.com. The views stated may or may not reflect the beliefs of the pastor or leadership of Dulin’s Grove Church.