I will give you rest. This is one of my favourite promises from Jesus.
Lately, I've felt exhausted and overwhelmed with life in general. I just needed to hit "pause", and take a break. This past week, I was blessed to be able to get away for a few days with my husband and do nothing but enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of autumn in northern Ontario. It was a blessing.
2020 and 2021 have been cause enough to just hit "pause" for anyone. For some, these years have just exasperated a long line of weary burdens. I think of my friends, the refugees and asylum seekers on Samos Island in Greece. COVID-19 restrictions, requiring them to shelter-in-place when they had no home, added insult to injury to their already precarious situations. With thousands of make-shift tents crammed together, perched atop a mountainside, constructed of skids, tarpaulin and items discarded from the town's-people, how could they be expected to safely shelter-in-place and protect themselves and others from the virus? Add to that, several fires within the compounds, an earthquake and resulting mini-Tsunami within a short few months, it would make anyone weary. I think about all the people I've met in my own community, through the Northend Church food bank, who've lost work and have been met with food insecurities as a result. Requests for prayer are flooding in to the food bank, in regards to cancer diagnoses, affordable housing, mental wellness, the challenges of mental illness within this COVID-19 world, job opportunities, and more.
I find it interesting that rest is not only a promise, it's a command. God designed us to require rest. By resting on the seventh day of creation, He set an example for us for us to follow. Physical rest is important. Mental rest is too.
How, then, do you rest when the burdens of life are crushing you?
“Come to me,all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30.
Bert and Hedy are dear friends who have lived a God-story on steroids. As a young couple, they were met with a deluge of medical challenges. Hedy wanted a child more than anything, but after two miscarriages, six cyst surgeries, multiple other surgeries, and facing death four times in four years, Hedy underwent a hysterectomy to save her life. For anyone else, this would have been a devastating blow. But Hedy had had a word from God, through an Old Testament verse, telling her she’d have a child. She rested in the knowledge that God had her back. He’d already saved her so many times, and she knew He‘d provide for her again. Her vast experience with Him, told her that this was who He was. Nine months later, they brought home their son.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” - Romans 8:28. The words, scribed on parchment paper with carefully burned edges, lovingly laminated onto a wooden plaque by close friend, hung on the wall of Bert and Hedy’s room for many years. On those bed-ridden days when she was in too much pain to move, those words brought her comfort and rest.
She rested in the Psalms through the next crisis that challenged her marriage. Opening the hymnal, she read, and sometimes sang, God's promises to David. There is rest in fulfilled promises.
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. ... He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Together, they rest, even when they are at the end of their rope and too tired to pray themselves. There is rest in knowing that, time and time again, friends and family are advocating on their behalf. There is rest in knowing that our prayers are a fragrant offering in God's throne-room.
May my prayer come to you like the sweet smell of incense.
When I lift up my hands in prayer, may it be like the evening sacrifice.
So today, may I encourage you to open scripture and rest in His Word.