Stop Running on Empty
Here’s the truth …
“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 ESV).
I went to bed tired. I woke up tired. I sometimes feel like I am juggling 25 balls at any given time. I throw them up in the air, thinking I have managed them well. What I seem to be unaware of is that someone up there catches them and holds on to them only to zing one straight at my head once in a while that I didn’t see coming. The ten-page permission slip that I need to complete right away just so that my daughter can go to a nearby restaurant as a reward during her school day. The letter in the mail that says someone is using our address for a credit card application. The leader of a missionary trip who asks for a handwritten letter and gifts to bring personally to your sponsored children overseas. A sump pump that quits out of the blue on a rainy day. In an already packed day, who has time to add these things into it without feeling pelted by balls that you weren’t expecting? You know it’s really bad when you wake up one day and your tired eyes are screaming for you to go straight to the medicine cabinet to put in them those magic drops to “get the red out!”
At some point, you yearn for the usual things that steal your time, because they are routine and expected: trips to the bank, stops to the grocery store to pick up items needed for that evening’s dinner, searches on the internet for the perfect gift for an upcoming birthday, visits to the gas station to pump into your car the fuel that you wish was made for humans to keep you going!
The usual tasks, though, can certainly become onerous when there are enough of them. Throw in working at a job somewhere, doing laundry, paying bills, enduring someone who says something unkind to you, emptying a dishwasher you swear you just emptied that morning, and on it goes.
Is this the abundant life Jesus promised when He said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ESV)? Was He meaning that He came to give us an abundance of chores, because that’s what I sometimes feel has happened! Can I get an Amen?
I cleaned my windows inside and out last weekend. While I was at it, I scrubbed other dusty areas as they came to my attention. At the end of the weekend, I felt so gratified to have that behind me and to be able to sit and enjoy the fruits of my labor—sparkling windows and no dust! But I must admit that no matter how much I loved the cleanliness, I would have preferred to have used the time I spent cleaning sitting on the couch instead! Rest. It’s what I presume we all crave.
Of course, Jesus came to give us rest—rest from all that really weighs us down. It’s our own fault when we try to do too much and get worn out doing it. Is it really a big deal to have clean windows, after all? How imperative is it that they sparkle if I can still see out of them? Sure, there are spots and occasional cobwebs. Yes, residue is unfortunate. But shouldn’t rest for my body and soul be considered more important than the sparkle?
Jesus, in fact, chastised Martha for this very thing. She was “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made” (Luke 10:40 NIV), and Jesus told her, “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one” (Luke 10:41-42 NIV). If she had only known that He wasn’t going to be around much longer, she might have used the time to be in His presence the way that Mary was—at His feet.
So it got me thinking. I mean, it’s hard to blame Martha because somebody has to do the work! We can’t just sit around all the time. So, is it really rest I crave when I know that work is a reality of life? Or am I simply rest-less, as in restless, seeing tasks undone?
It seems to me that we crave to be reunited with God the Father because we were created to live with Him in paradise. Until we get to do that, we will wander the earth restlessly searching and seeking and never fully being satiated. Ever think about that? Maybe the rest we long for seems elusive because we long to be with God on an earth where He resides inside of people. Mary was able to lay at Jesus’s feet physically. The God of Genesis hung out with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden until they were removed as a result of their disobedience. Our rest with our Father today has to be much more purposeful. We must choose it.
Jesus said, “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” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV). To be “heavy laden” suggests carrying a load that has become too much to handle. It’s like you have a backpack that is filled with so much more than Jesus’s backpack has in it. He desires to trade with you so that you can continue on your journey, giving you His backpack that is much lighter and more manageable. The trick is that you need to invite Jesus on the journey with you. Often, we save our invitations for after we have completed our tasks. And the problem with that is that there are always more tasks waiting once others are tackled, aren’t there? Inevitably, Jesus gets shortchanged. It’s like He’s sitting in the bleachers, watching you run your never-ending race with that heavy backpack, wishing you would just stop long enough to invite Him to take your pack and finish the race with you or even for you, if you need Him to do that. He just wants you to be close enough to Him that you can keep your eyes on Him and your ears tuned! Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching” (Luke 10:39 ESV), after all.
Rest will not happen for us until we invite it into our lives. The next time you awaken and know that you have a busy day ahead, take the time to give it to Jesus right away. I bet at the end of that day, you will look back on it and see His hand that upheld you. And try to build in to your days more time for rest and reflection. Your batteries need to be recharged, but you have to plug in to recharge them! Plug in to Jesus.
… and that’s the truth as I know it!