I am not a napper. I rarely lay down except to go down for the night. I am usually up doing something whether I am working on a project at home or for work, playing with the kids, something. I just don’t nap. But last Sunday, Lord have mercy, I was ready to go down for the count in the middle of the afternoon. That’s what people do on Sunday afternoons, right? Turn the television to a riveting golf tournament and slip off to La-La Land. Amen Brother!! I’ll tell you though, last Sunday, I didn’t turn the television on. I didn’t care who the Cowboys were losing to that day. And I did not waste my time on the couch. It was straight to the bed for me. My brain was arguing with my body to get up the stairs quicker to get into bed quicker. I am a heavy man, but last Sunday, it felt like my body weighed three times the normal weight. When I finally woke up late in the evening, I felt like I had been drugged or something. It was like my body wasn’t sure it wanted to wake up. I was just so tired.
But what do you do when your fatigue is not physical? Money problems, issues with the kids, marriage, pressure at work, this kind of fatigue cannot be helped by a good nap. In fact, these kinds of issues will keep you awake at night so you don’t even go to sleep. We feel the pressure of making things happen. We feel the pressure of making sure everything and everyone is good and happy. We want our kids to be happy. We want our marriage to be filled with romance. We want to quickly scale up the ladder of success. Well…let’s face, we want it all. Somewhere in our mind, we realize we can’t have it all, but we want it all for ourselves and for the people we love. And we spend so much time trying to make everything right. If we are not working to make everything right, we are stressing and worrying on how we can fix everything. Inevitably, the load becomes too heavy and we are exhausted mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
It was this kind of exhaustion that Jesus was referring to when He said, “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)
Perhaps, there have been no more beautiful words spoken than these. They seem to penetrate my spirit and from the depths of who I am, I cry out, “Yes, I want that!”
Jesus is teaching me the source of rest is not an enchanted, perfect life. This is how most of us attempt to find emotional and mental rest, but Jesus even warned us that in this life we will have many trials and troubles. To think that our life will ever be perfect is not only wrong, but anti-Biblical. This kind of rest, inner-peace, does not come from solved problems and picture-perfect families. It comes from intimacy with Christ. When we come to Him, He gives rest, plain and simple. And this is a wonderful promise, but let’s reverse it a bit. If this is true, and it is because Jesus is GOD!!!!!, then I can measure my intimacy with the Lord by the amount of peace within during these trials and troubles. The more my soul rests, because Christ is the source of this rest, the more intimate I must be with Him. And on the contrary, the more I lose my peace, I become aware of the distance between Christ and I in that moment.
Our instructions to find this peace are to take His yoke upon us. Just in case you don’t remember what a yoke is, it is that piece of wood that goes across the necks of oxen when they are put together to pull something. We must be connected to Christ and move as He moves. He goes on to say that His burden is light. He is our Father and we are His children. He is responsible for us. We are His burden and all of our issues combined are light to the Lord Jesus Christ. He doesn’t even have to break a sweat to deal with all our issues. They are so easy for Him. I can’t draw near to the Lord unless I accept that He is responsible for me.
When our children are hungry, they don’t get on Craig’s list and start trying to find a job. They simply come to us and ask when are we going to eat dinner. They fully live in the peace that we are responsible for them. They are not responsible for themselves. We must learn that God has accepted that responsibility, but unless we surrender to this truth, we will try to fix everything ourselves and become overwhelmed. Or don’t you remember this Biblical truth:
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
The Lord is filthy rich in everything you need. You need peace, He has it abundantly to give. You need companionship, He is a billionaire in love and companionship. You need forgiveness, there is not enough ink and pen in the world to keep track of His reserves of forgiveness. You need money, He owns all the gold, silver, oil, natural gas, in fact He owns all wealth on this Earth and beyond and He will supply your needs accordingly. What is He saying to you? He is saying that you are His. You are His child and He will take care of you. Stop trying to fix everything by yourself.
C’mon now…I am not saying anything you didn’t already know. We know this. It is a simple truth. We are the children of God. He is our Father, our good, good Father. Though we know this principle, we have not allowed it to saturate our soul and our spirit that we might have this rest. We say on one side of our mouth that He is our Father and on the other side of our mouth, we verbalize stress, worry, and fear as if we were orphans left out on the street to fend for ourselves.
Why? Why can’t we let this truth sink in? Why can we rest in this truth? In Psalm 46:10, we are commanded to “Be still and know that I am God.” Again, we are not talking about a physical stillness. This is a emotional and mental. This rest that comes from Christ alone comes in to us as we obey this command to Be Still. But what does it mean to be still and how do we do it?
The word for ‘still’ in this passage comes from an original word that means ‘to slacken.’ The imagery is a rope tied around our issues and we have pulled the rope taut. I am holding on to my issues, giving them ample space in my thoughts trying to keep them under control. Fear of these issues going wild keeps me pulling the rope taut trying to make sure everything is just right, just perfect. We want to be able to control everything and everyone to make them do what they are supposed to do.
“Oh, you little bald man, are you trying to say that I am a control freak? Is that what you are saying?” First, I am not little. I am bald, but I am not little. Secondly, I am saying that our desire to control issues in our life is revealed by our lack of peace when those issues do not go as planned. As long as the rope is pulled taut, when the issues in our life go wild, they pull us here and there. Our mind loses its peace and emotional instability kicks in. The rope is pulled too tight! The Lord says that if we want to truly know him and have our soul soaked in His truth, we need to slacken the rope. In other words, we need to stop being so uptight trying to force everything to be as we believe it should. This includes people too. We have ropes around the people in our life and expectations of how they should behave and we pull the rope taut to keep them where we believe they should be. Of course, when they don’t meet our expectations, we lose it emotionally in anger, disappointment, or sadness.
Remember, this is a command from the Lord. We are commanded to “Be Still.” We are commanded to slacken the rope. The Lord cannot do this for us and our friends can’t do it for us. Only we can do this. We must slowly slide the rope through our hands back toward our issues. When we do this, our issues can go haywire, but we are not moved. We remain. We are stilled. We are trying to tame all the issues in our life as if this will bring peace. The Lord has designed our experience on Earth in such a way that we will never tame all the issues in life and peace comes from accepting this, realizing it, and allowing the Lord to keep us still even as our world flies through the air in total chaos.
I love how much the Lord understands our struggles. He knows how difficult it is to let slack in the rope. We are fearful of what will happen if we don’t. To help us, in the same Psalm 46, He reminds us that He is the God of Jacob. Jacob? Wasn’t Jacob’s name changed to Israel? Didn’t he become the father of twelve sons who become the twelve nations of Israel? Yes, yes, and yes. In fact, when Jacob learned to hold on to the Lord tightly, and slacken the rope on his issues, the Lord changed His name from Jacob to Israel. Yet the Lord does not encourage us by reminding us that He is the god of Israel. No, He says that He is the God of Jacob.
I know I am going on and on, but you know how preachers are. Don’t stop reading now. I think this next part might really help you. Jacob was a liar, a thief, and a manipulator. Even when God came to Him promising to take care of Him, He did not accept the Lord’s kindness and begin to worship Him. No, instead he bargained with God saying, “If you take care of me, then I will worship you.” Unbelievable! But this is who He was. In fact, the only good thing going for Jacob was the fact that He desired the covenant blessing of God that would have come down from Abraham to his father, Isaac, and then to Isaac’s firstborn. The conniving we see in Jacob was to steal from his brother, the firstborn, the covenant blessings of God. Everything he did for so long was wrong, but He knew He wanted what God had promised.
Wow! I suddenly feel like Jacob. I want the things of God: peace, love, joy, success, and prosperity. I have always wanted these things, but for most of my life, my efforts to obtain these were all messed up, just like Jacob. But also, like Jacob, the Lord used my mistakes, lack of faith, and sin to help me to see that I needed Him in my life. Even as I was living in rebellion, He was using my experiences to draw me back to Himself. There came a day for Jacob and for me where it all came to a head. I slackened the rope on all the issues in life and stopped trying to obtain the promises of God on my own and I took hold of His hand and declared, “I will not let go of you.”
Do you see what the Lord is saying to us? He is the God of Jacob. He is the God who used all the drama, mistakes, sin, rebellion, deceit in Jacob’s life to bring him back. The Lord did this because Jacob was trying to move into God’s presence. His brother Esau despised his birthright and in so doing, despised the blessings of God.
If our greatest desire is the blessing of God, no matter how messed up our life is, the Lord will bring us back to Himself. We may suffer and pain may be a constant part of our life. Our life may be out of control. Our heart may be broken and bitter. Our dreams might be dashed against the rocks. But in everything, just as with Jacob, the Lord will never leave us and He will never stop using all of this to bring us back to Him that we might take hold of Him and slacken our ropes everywhere else. And if God is able to do this even in the mess we have made out of our life, we don’t have to control everything. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to have the picture-perfect family. We don’t need to be problem-free. God is going to work all things for the good. So…slacken the rope. When you do, you will see the Lord maintain your peace and sustain your soul. Stop stressing. Stop running those fearful scenarios through your mind. God has you. Let go of your anxiety and take hold of Jesus. You are His. He has accepted responsibility for you and He will give you rest for your soul.