Rest for Our Souls


Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Usually the last place I decide to go is to Jesus. As Tullian says I do more, try harder until I wear myself out.  Even listening to sermons and reading books can be my own attempt to fix myself.  If I don’t actually go to Jesus as the books and sermons advise me to then I’m only spinning my wheels in the mud, getting more stuck in my own attempt fix myself.

As far back as I can remember I’ve been attempting to do it own my own. Even my prayer when I was in the fifth grade after listening to a sermon about how to get to Heaven, was an attempt to save myself. The preacher declared from the TV screen that day if we wanted the key to the gates of Heaven that we had to to name all of our sins and ask God to forgive us.   I think a picture of a golden key and a gate even flashed on the screen, followed by flames of hell for those who didn’t do what the preacher said.  It scared me a lot.  I didn’t want to go to Hell.  I went straight to my room after the show and kneeled beside my bed trying to remember every single sin.  It took a long time to name them all.  I remember as I focused on all the details of every sin feeling like such a bad person. I was worried I’d forgotten a sin. I asked God to forgive what I remembered, but I didn’t feel at peace when I was done.  As a matter of fact, I was really tired.

I think after that day things actually got more difficult. I now knew that God expected me to repent, and I felt like He was angry at me when I didn’t.  I didn’t know it then but I had come to believe that God was a lot like my adopted father.

I spilled a gallon of tea on the table and he screamed at me.

I didn’t wipe off the bathroom counter or put the towel back where it belonged and he had a fit.

When I was older I wrecked my car,  he screamed reminding me that he’d warned me I drove too fast.

Everything that went wrong all the time was my fault.  The burden of that responsibility was very heavy and the rest Jesus promised seemed impossible.

But then one day the weight of my sins got too heavy again.  My adopted father had passed away and the vision of his body in the coffin haunted me. 

I was a young adult and had only been married a few years. I was going to church where the preacher didn’t tell us we had to name all of our sins, rather He taught the Bible and told us how we could trust God. I still didn’t get it.  I was beating myself up for being bad.  I worked for a Christian doctor at the time and found the courage to talk to him about the things that were bothering me.  He’d already prescribed me anti-anxiety meds to calm me down, but peace seemed a million miles away.  That day the doctor prescribed me the assignment to go home and read Romans 7. He said all Christians struggled with being bad, because as long as we lived in our broken human bodies we’d struggle against the flesh.  He said it was like dragging a dead body around all the time. 

His words encouraged me and I followed his advice.  Reading Romans 8 gave my soul more relief than I’d ever known, especially these verses:

Romans 8:26-27 ESV

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

I realized that day that God wasn’t angry with me.  He’d seen all of my pain, and when I didn’t know how to pray for myself He prayed for me. Jesus had been there all along. Sweet relief flooded my soul.

But even after that amazing day that changed everything I believed about God, I still tried too hard to do it on my own.  I still do.

This morning I awakened with a picture of Jesus in my mind telling me to come to Him.  I’m trying too hard to figure all this stuff out on my own.  He wants me to have rest.

Why is it so hard to go?  At 43 years of age,  with a long track record of trying and failing, you’d think I’d know by now it’s just not possible to find rest without Him.

Maybe it takes extreme exhaustion and frustration for me to finally give Him my burdens, but today I’m there. I know I can’t fix this or figure it all out.  I can’t say the right things to relieve my daughter’s stress.  I can’t comfort my husband with enough sympathy to relieve his own weariness.  I can’t say I’m sorry enough for all the ways I’ve failed him.  I can’t fix him enough nice meals or clean the house well enough to assure him I’m committed to him and our family.  I cannot make up for my failures. It’s just not possible.  But Jesus can.

I definitely meet the prerequisite for coming to Him. I am weary and heavy laden. I am tired and sick of carrying these burdens on my own.  What does it look like to go to Him?

I know it doesn’t look like it what it did to go to my adopted father.

I was desperate the day I called him.  My back was hurting. My body was sore. I was 19 years old and because something on the wheels of my car had broken, I’d lost control and gone off the road into a ditch.  My car was totaled and I called to ask him what to do.
He was very upset that my car accident had disrupted his day. He angrily declared that he’d warned me about driving too fast, and I knew he was right. Even though something on my wheel had broken, I might have been able to control the car if I’d been going the speed limit.  I remember feeling so guilty.  Rather than take my burden that day, my father had given me guilt to carry.

Jesus isn’t like my father.  Last summer when I cried out to Him to show me the truth about the ten year train wreck in my life, He didn’t give me guilt, He gave me what I asked for.  And for the first time in a very long time I understood once again how much God loved me.  It didn’t matter that I’d been driving too fast trying to find a solution for my pain on my own and had landed into an abusive relationship with a damaged man, Jesus wanted me to have relief from all of my pain.

And He still does.  So once again I’m asking Him to take these burdens and give me His light load, to teach me and my family how to walk in His ways and find rest. 

Please, Jesus, I’m so very tired.

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