Rest for the Weary

With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas ahead, how are you feeling? No other time of year brings such an onslaught of emotions – from anxiety to joy, discontent to gratitude, remembrance to anticipation. We worry about whether the turkey will be too dry, whether Great Uncle Bob will embarrass himself, whether we’ve gotten the right presents for everybody. We grow excited about seeing friends or family, giving and receiving presents, having a delightful meal. We mourn those who aren’t with us this year, and we celebrate our babies’ first Christmases. Sometimes, we even remember that “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

So much emotion – so much anticipation – can give us a sense of being unsettled. Even positive stress is still stress. We feel it in our bodies, even if we don’t acknowledge it with our minds. It comes out as fitful sleep, snippy conversations, and distraction. Now, take a moment and breathe. Acknowledge all that’s going on in your heart and mind, and take just a moment of respite.

Sunday morning, JP showed us that monuments – in our case, holidays – are set up to help us look back in thankfulness and look forward with faith. Contrast that statement with “look back with regret and look forward with worry.” Which is more restful and restorative?

When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he made sure to thank them for all they had provided to him. He was overwhelmed with their love and generosity, “I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me” (Phil 4:10a). Paul always stopped to give thanks where it was due. Notice, too, his ongoing disposition:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength (Phil 4:11-13, NIV).
Paul lays claim to an emotion that brings no anxiety: contentment. Contentment means you’re settled down. You’re satisfied. Paul – beaten, imprisoned, malnourished – was satisfied. Why? How could he possibly be satisfied? Because Jesus gave him the strength to be content. Jesus gave him rest for his soul:
“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” (Matt 11:28-30, NIV).
In this season of turmoil, don’t forget that Jesus offers us rest for our very souls. Only in this rest can we find the strength to be content, whatever our circumstances.

- Sarah Jo Smith; 4 December 2019; Austin TX

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