I am not sure about you, but when I am feeling tired, stretched, overwhelmed by family, work, church service and life in general, I just want to climb into my bed, close the curtains, turn off the lights and forget about everything. If only that would be the answer! Don’t get me wrong, catching up with sleep is a start. The problem is, eventually, we have to get up, get dressed, tidy up the mess around the house, prepare to return to work and so on. Life does not stop and wait for us.
Some people have told me in the past they find it helps them to find rest or “peace” when they listen to a motivational speaker. Someone that will tell us we are worth it, we are strong and can do anything we want, if we put our mind to it. Some will attempt to give us little “recipes”, tips or tricks that if we follow each day, in a certain order, will help us reach the end of the day feeling good about ourselves. Changing our routine and habits can be a good thing, especially when we are overstretched.
Another thing people might turn to when tired, is mindfulness. Mindfulness colouring, breathing, walking, thinking… slowing down everything around us. Some nice techniques, some bullet points to follow and the promise (again) that things can change, if you stick to it, are very attractive indeed. Please let me say, I am not against mindfulness. I think there is a place for it in our lives.
I am pretty tired at the moment. I work in a school and the past years, it is fair to say, have been very challenging. I am sure it has been challenging for many people whatever their professional life looks like. My husband has been working from home and my kids have had hybrid education and like many other families we find ourselves overstretched. We are tired and long for things to be back to “normal”. We find ourselves weary. I find myself weary.
Where can we find the rest we need? What kind of rest do we need?
Is it the kind of rest Tony Stark longed for in the Avengers movies? Spoiler alert – if you haven’t seen the movies, skip this paragraph. When Tony was plagued by the thought the world could be destroyed by alien attacks, he could not rest. He tried everything and he lost a lot on the way, until he was able to defeat Thanos with the infinity stones. His wife tells him that she and her daughter will be ok and he can finally “rest” and he dies. Very moving if you like this kind of thing. I remember the deafening silence in the cinema.
Is it the expensive holiday in a paradise island somewhere with blue skies and crystal clear waters all around and no internet connection?
The Bible tells us we can find rest in our God, our Father, our Creator. Jesus said:
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
The first thing we need to be reminded of is that the rest we need is the one we can only find in Jesus. Our bodies will be restored after we catch up with sleep, our health will be restored (in most cases) after we look after ourselves, our life style can change and be calmer when we adopt the necessary routines, but there is nothing, absolutely nothing we can do (or anyone else, as a matter of fact) to find rest for our souls.
There is a weariness we carry all our lives because of sin and that can only be dealt with in the person of Jesus. No matter how many times we listen to motivational talks or feel good about ourselves. In the midst of our running from here to there and everything in between, there is a heart that is focused only or mostly on self. We want what we want and we find time and ways to tell others about that. The unkind words we say, either because we are dissatisfied with how our day is going or because we are too tired, the looks we give our kids or co-workers because they are not doing what we want them to do, the way we grumble when we can’t find the fresh produce whilst doing the supermarket run, even the pet gets blamed for the mess around the house. Do these sound familiar? What about the fact that we fail to include God in the things we do? Sinful behaviour.
The problem is that we miss the point when our soul is tired. The Psalms are a treasure chest full of gems when it comes to pouring hearts before the Lord and crying out for help. One of my favourite Psalms is 121. (click here to read it in full)
The Israelites had to make the long and dangerous journey 3 times a year to observe 3 special occasions the Lord had commanded them to. Jerusalem was where the temple was and where the presence of the Lord dwelt. The presence of the Lord brought the people protection and gave them a way to offer sacrifices for their sin and seek forgiveness. There is a possibility that the Psalmist here is thinking about that in verse 1:
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from?
Another possibility is that the psalmist new the dangers that awaited as he was going to Jerusalem. Perhaps his heart was heavy, weary, full of anxieties as he travelled to the city. Like you and I there are different reasons and circumstances that bring us to this journey where we need to stop and ask, “where does my help come from?”. We must carry on reading the psalm as there is much for us to learn. The psalmist’s answer to his question is remarkable. Verses 2 to 8:
2My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand; 6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; 8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
The answer is remarkable because this man knew who God is. He knew that God is the One who made the heaven and the earth. He knew that God is in control, reigning, sovereign over all things and He does not fall asleep. The Lord is omniscient and omnipresent, watching over us at all times. He knows every moment, every detail of our lives from the moment we are conceived to our last breath (and every moment in between). What a confidence and security this psalmist had.
Do we know our God well enough that we too might be able to answer in this way? Perhaps it is time that we stopped getting distracted by everything around us and within us and invested time in getting to know our Maker more. When we spend time in His word and in prayer we get reacquainted with God and we can find rest in Him even when the dangers are still very real, the worries still present, the uncertainties painfully displayed in our paths, God gives us rest. Rest for today, knowing that we have salvation in Jesus and a rest for tomorrow, eternity with God, no matter what this day might bring.
Praise and glory be to Him.
Photo by Jessica Delp on Unsplash