Weariness comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, it comes from burning the candle at both ends for far too long. Other times, it stems from carrying something heavy for a long time, and there is exhaustion due to the journey of carrying the load. It comes from holding onto a job, a relationship, or even a call from God long after we were invited to let it go. It can hit us after an intense season that required more effort on our part than normal and a more rapid pace than normal. The weight of our tiredness can overwhelm us at times and catch us off guard.
Thank goodness God promises us rest!
What does rest mean?
When I searched for definitions of rest in online dictionaries, I got three main explanations of rest:
- To cease work or movement in order to relax
- To refresh oneself
- To recover strength
I grimaced as I read these because they capture what our society and culture has come to believe as truth – we are own our own, even when it comes to providing our own renewal.
As we talked about in the first week of our Promises of God series, we are never alone. God supports us and helps us by providing invitations for rest and also by helping us refresh ourselves and recover our strength. Let’s take a closer look at this.
God’s invitation and Jesus’ model of Sabbath:
In the creation story, we read how God rested on the seventh day (Gn 2: 1-3). When Moses is given the ten commandments the third one is remember to keep holy the Sabbath. Even though we read multiple stories of Jesus healing on the Sabbath, we also see Jesus pausing for rest to pray, to be with his friends, and to go away from the crowd. Even Jesus “ceased movement” to relax when we read of how he reclined at the table with the twelve (Mt 26:20). There are multiple examples in scripture also of Jesus going to his inner chapel to get strength for the journey ahead.
God’s invitation to each of us is to take pauses or sabbath moments in our busy lives to cease movement so that God can refresh us and help us recover our strength. The gift of our faith is that God is the source of our rest.
To embrace the promises of God-given rest, we must reclaim sabbath-taking in our lives.
A story I shared many times on this blog before is about the day I was at a conference for spiritual directors. I sat with a group of my friends at lunch discussing the idea of how we can take sabbath in our lives. Many around the table did not have kids and spoke of taking an entire day off a week for a sabbath day. To be honest, I was envious of this thought, and I could feel the growing resentment in me as I listened to this. My inner monologue was going ninety to nothing as I thought of the basic day to day tasks as a mother that would never go away if I tried to take a sabbath day – laundry, meals, baths, homework time, carpooling kids, and the basic care of children.
A friend, sensing my frustration, said, “What if you thought about sabbath in another way? What if you thought about it as Renewing Energy in Spirit Time?” She encouraged me to think about moments I could incorporate rituals of R.E.S.T. instead of taking an entire day for Sabbath. She encouraged me to look for moments that allowed God to renew my spirit, and she reminded me of Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel, “Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest.”
Her words remain with me over the years, and I remember them now as I look for ways that I can seek rest in the middle of life with kids, work, and journeying with my grandfather. On one hand I know I have a role in carving out time for rest, and on the other, I savor the promise of Jesus’ words, “I will give you rest.” I know that R.E.S.T. is not mine to do alone.
God refreshes us in Prayer:
So many scriptures give us clear direction on where our spirit’s renewal will come from. Scriptures such as:
- Besides still waters he leads me and restore my soul (Ps 23)
- In God alone is my soul at rest (Ps 62)
- Therefore, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God. And whoever enters into God’s rest, rests from his own works as God did from his. Therefore, let us strive to enter into that rest, so that no one may fall after the same example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:9-11)
When we take sabbath moments to soak up promises of God such as: we are unconditionally loved, that we are never alone, and that God gives us rest, we are refreshed and can bring what God poured into us out into the world.
God Recovers Our Strength:
Remember, too, that God not only helps us recover our strength, but God promises that our burden will be easy. This type of rest God promises was incredibly comforting to me as I walked with my grandfather. The worry and additional role in my life of walking with him combined with my normal responsiblitiies of life felt incredibly heavy at times.
The scripture, Mt 11: 28-30 brought me much comfort. I often remembered a homily I heard once where the priest unpacked what this scripture meant. He said back in Jesus’ time when a young calf was yoked up for the first time, the older oxen, because of its size, carried the bulk of the load, while the young calf’s load was light. The two oxen (one older and wiser and the other younger and learning the way) were yoked together to walk the same path. The older oxen carried the heavier load as the younger one was taught the way.
God is always the older oxen for us. God literally yokes up to us and helps us carry what we are carrying. God’s promise is that as we are the young calf we are given the lighter end. So God gives us respite and allows our strength to endure by our load being lightened.
How does God fulfill this promise?
God helps us carry this by responding to our prayers. God raises desires in people to act in way that helps others so that our loads are lightened. People decide to do concrete acts of kindness that relieve our work. I can think of one of the days my grandfather was in a coma and a friend heard our fridge was empty. That night, I came home to a fridge full of groceries. Friends brought meals so that our family was able to come home without the worry of grocery shopping or meal preparation.
What about you?
What part of this promise of God do you need to cling to in your own life right now? Are you being invited to include Sabbath moments in your week? Are you being invited to still waters to be refreshed? Is God reminding you that you are not alone in the load you are carrying? Or are you being called to be the hands and arms of God by offering others rest right now?
Whatever you feel called to, I invite you to put it into action this next week and lean into the promise of God’s rest.
- Exodus 33:14// I will give you rest
- Psalms 3:6// The Lord sustains me
- Psalms 23:2-3// He restores my soul
- Psalms 62// My soul finds rest in God alone
- Isaiah 40:29-31// Hope in the Lord will renew my strength
- Mark 6:31// Rest a while
- Hebrews 4:9-11// Rest
- On Keeping the Lord’s Day Holy by Saint John Paul II