Ah rest, that sounds so sweet to me. After all the bustle and busyness of the Christmas season, rest is just what I need. There are decorations to take down, wrapping paper paraphernalia to clean up, one more family gathering and then life will go back to normal. Today however, I am resting as much as I can, so I have the energy to complete the remainder of the season’s demands.
Jesus promises us rest, not physical rest but spiritual. “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear and the burden I give you is light.’” (Matthew 11:28-30 NLT)
When I became a disciple of Jesus, I didn’t understand I was given rest. His yoke didn’t feel light, it represented the heavy burden of guilt. I constantly worried if I was doing enough for God. I felt guilty if I said no to serving opportunities. I longed to be a devout woman of God. I believed that meant serving here and there and everywhere. I was very busy for God as a young woman.
Then I developed fibromyalgia in 1999. Fibromyalgia limits my ability to do things. I have diminished energy reserves and constant pain. I require a lot of physical rest. My lack of ability to do things only increased my feelings of guilt. I felt guilty that my husband had to pick up my slack around the house. My serving God here, there and everywhere came to a complete stop. Eventually I was able to start serving again, but in moderation. Therefore, I fought to keep my guilty thoughts at bay.
I didn’t comprehend how much guilt I was really feeling. I was good at stuffing feelings, it was my defense mechanism. But God in his mercy began to peel away the layers of lies I was operating under. First, he surfaced my feelings of guilt, so I could see the extent of them. I felt so condemned because of my inability “to do”. I equated that with sin. I blamed myself for developing fibromyalgia. It was my fault. I even felt guilty about that.
Then, he showed me I wasn’t believing what the gospel had done for me. He used verses like Romans 8:1 “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (NLT) Romans 8 told me I was no longer condemned by God -period. He wasn’t chastising me for not being able to serve him or my family in the way I thought I should, which mostly consisted of physical activities.
He also used the above passage in Matthew. The Pharisees put heavy burdens on the people. It was all about what they had to do – or not do. In contrast, Jesus says his yoke is easy and light. It is not about what I do, it is about what I believe. He has no desire to put heavy burdens on me.
As I grow deeper and deeper in my comprehension of the gospel and all its implications, I see how the yoke of Jesus is easy and light. I don’t have to serve God in a certain way to please him; he is already pleased. I still desire to serve God, but I understand that serving him is more about being than doing. When I tell a grocery store clerk that Jesus loves them, I have served God that day. When I text a word of encouragement to someone, I have served God. When I reflect Jesus in any way, I have served God.
Join me in the New Year in being Jesus to the world. Let’s not worry about what to do, but how to be. Let’s sit at the feet of Jesus to learn from his humble and gentle heart. And we will find rest for our souls.