Living in God’s Rest

Jesus said, “Come unto 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 rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. “ (Matthew 20: 28-30) NIV

Are you trying to keep too many plates spinning?

There may be things which we long to do and we may desire to honour God by serving Him, but somehow the busy-ness of our life with its many pressures crowds in and we feel we are just surviving rather than truly living. Doing all the right things and ticking all the boxes can be exhausting, like keeping dozens of plates spinning or trying to juggle dozens of balls without dropping one, while in our heart we know that it is impossible to do everything right all the time. Yet Jesus said we can find rest.  So how can we find this rest and remain in it?

Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened

 So take Him at His word and come to Him. Tell Him honestly how you are feeling, what your frustrations are, what you find difficult and ask for His help. Sit quietly and let Him speak to you. Focus your mind on Him

It is important, I feel, to take an honest look at how we spend our time and energy, evaluating our motives for doing what we do. It might be helpful to make a list of all tasks or activities that occupy your time on a regular basis. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you the true motives behind each one, then sort them into categories:

a) Essential activities: Which of them are things which are essential, such as caring for home and family, or work commitments?

b) Shoulds and oughts: Which of them are things that you do because you feel you should or ought to? Are there some that you do to impress or win approval from others, including God? Are you performance orientated, always feeling you have to tick all the boxes?

c) Activities for self – protection: Do you keep busy in order to fill a void in your life, or because you need to be needed? Maybe you want to avoid being alone with your thoughts. Maybe  you think you have to hold everything together so you have no choice but to keep everything going, or your world may fall apart. Which of these tasks drain you or leave you feeling unfulfilled?

d) Things you want to do: How many of the things you do give you real joy and peace? How much time do you spend doing things you love because you know that is what you were born to do?

e) Things you are called to do: Which of your activities do you feel are a genuine calling from God?

Now look at the shoulds and oughts and the activities for self protection. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you the reasons behind why you feel the need to be over-busy.

 Ask Him to show you if He wants you to continue with all the things you do, or if there is something you should stop. Is it time to take a different direction, share workloads or take a time of rest? Is there something you should be doing but are not, because you are too busy doing things you have not been called to do? When we come to Him in trust and surrender everything He will show us by His Spirit and give us a sense of what to do or not to do.

‘Take my yoke upon you’

A yoke is a piece of equipment which kept two oxen together, working side by side. While often thought of as being cumbersome and restrictive, when the two move in synchronisation with each other it is easy and effective. I believe this is what Jesus meant when He said ‘take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart’. When we are close to Him He will put thoughts and desires into our heart which we know in our spirit are from Him.

Sometimes the things we find challenging are things God wants us to persevere with and if this is the case He will equip us and give strength for the task. I feel it is a question of discerning when He is calling us to keep going and trust Him because He is shaping and refining us, and when He is saying it is time to stop. Again, this comes from intimacy and walking closely with Him. Often we do not yoke ourselves to Him, but live independently of Him, hearing these words and knowing them in our heads but not in our heart.

‘For my yoke is easy and my burden is light’

Many Christians I have discussed this with say that they know if a decision is right because they have a sense of peace, whereas they have no peace if their decision is not in line with God’s plans and purposes. This discernment is only to be found when we are in that place of intimacy with Jesus and in close relationship with Him. Walking in partnership with Him is a joy. We will have a sense of rightness in our spirit, and even when things are busy there will be a sense of purpose and excitement. This is what we will experience when we take His yoke upon us and the promise will be realised; You will find rest for your souls.

I have gone through two periods in my life where my employment was stressful and difficult. In the first of these, even though I wanted to quit, through prayer and spiritual counsel from Christian friends I felt that God would have me keep going because He was using this as a time of training in my life and strengthening of character. With His help I persevered and the result was greater skill, greater confidence in my work and a deeper trust and reliance on my Heavenly Father.

The second period of difficulty contained a different lesson and a different outcome. Again I was finding my work challenging and exhausting but this time God asked me to make a change and demonstrate my trust in Him by surrendering my work to Him. About two thirds of the way through this difficult year I attended a Christian conference where the speaker was teaching on Abraham and the test he faced of sacrificing his only son, Isaac, in response to God’s command. The speaker discerned that God was asking us to lay our ‘Isaacs’ on the altar and surrender them to God. The following day, in the presence of two close friends, I lay my job on the altar, offering it to the Lord as a sacrifice and trusting Him to give back whatever He chose, even if that meant nothing. I experienced great peace after doing this. Two days later I spoke to my employer and asked if I could reduce my days, adding that if this was not possible I would be prepared to hand in my notice, as I was finding my present commitment untenable. Amazingly, he replied that this might well be possible and a few days later he confirmed that I could work two days a week as another colleague also wanted to reduce her hours and her request fitted perfectly with mine, so we could job-share!  What is more, it would be in an age group which I loved. The Lord had given me back the perfect amount of work, and the bonus of having my preferred age group was the cherry on the cake!

‘And you will find rest for your souls’

Following this decision I felt deep peace and the outworking of it confirmed to me that this was the Lord’s will for me at that time. The work was more manageable and enjoyable, providing space for me to rest and also to pursue other areas that God was prompting me to be involved in.

It is my hope and prayer that you too will find rest and peace as you allow the Lord to give you His perspective on your daily tasks. May the ‘burden’ that you carry be the one that He has tailor-made for you.

 A Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

I thank you for the promise that Your yoke is easy and your burden is light.  I place all my tasks and activities at Your feet and surrender them to You. Please show me clearly by Your Holy Spirit which of these are priorities and which I should consider putting down. May I have the courage to do this and experience peace and rest as I walk in close relationship with You.

Amen

This article relates to my article entitled ‘The Good Steward’.

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