My fingers and toes were ice, but my face was flushed and hot. Wrapped in a blanket, wearing several layers, including socks and slippers, I could not get warm. The tell tale signs were like stealth fighters. spies on a covert mission. Try as I might to thwart them, I merely slowed their progress. The tactic changed. It was a full-on frontal assault, a barrage of symptoms wreaking havoc with my immune system.
Chills. Aches. Fever. Runny nose. Sneezing. Headache. Maybe the flu.
I hate being sick. I especially hate it now that I’m a widow. Going to the store to get my own OJ and chicken noodle is no fun when my head feels twice its normal size. Being sick feels worse alone.
My first reaction is typically denial. “I’m not getting sick. I’m just tired. I have too much to do. Can’t get sick. I don’t feel well just because I think I don’t feel well. It’s all psychological.”
Finally I give in and accept reality. “Ugh. I feel awful.”
To the couch I go, knowing rest is a primary need. I admit, initially it’s wonderful to alternate sleep with a movie marathon. Sometimes slowing down is a beautiful thing.
But after about a day on the couch, restlessness sets in. You know, it’s that stage of sickness in which normal tasks still take too much energy, the brain is still fuzzy, and the nose still a faucet. But being stuck in the house just might make you go crazy.
I mean, a diet of chicken noodle, crackers, hot tea, orange juice, and vitamin C only satisfies for so long.
“I don’t have time for sickness. There’s too much to do.” I struggle to think that the world keeps spinning even when all my plates crash to the ground because I’m too sick to keep them up. Missed deadlines. Forgotten responsibilities.
Therefore, as soon as I feel “a little better,” I think I’m ready to take on the world again, tackling a full day’s work. Yeah, that was a dumb decision. I wasn’t truly up to par. Worked too much, pushed too hard. It feels like a new assault, an even worse barrage of symptoms. Relapse.
Another day’s rest would have been a smart idea.
But when my body needed rest, I thought I could keep striving.
Now isn’t that thought provoking?
I needed rest, but thought I had to strive instead. The parallels are unmistakable. My soul needs rest, but I think I can gain it through striving. Just as physical striving produces exhaustion, more so does my spiritual striving.
If only I don’t get distracted during prayer and Bible reading. Oh yeah, don’t forget praying more consistently for others. If only I tell more people about Jesus. If only I attend ladies’ Bible study and two community groups, serve in the nursery, teach the children’s class, set up communion, give money to the poor, speak at conferences…
Perhaps you have some “if onlys” as well.
If only I was a better mom.
If only I could keep my house perfectly clean.
If only I could throw cute Pinterest parties for my children.
If only I could afford organic food.
If only I had more time in a day.
If only people keep thinking I have it altogether.
If only my boss would recognize my hard work.
If only I could be a wife.
If only I could be a mom.
If only I could take a vacation.
If only I had money in the bank.
Then I would be happy. Then I would rest.
And so it goes. Isn’t it exhausting? With all my toiling there is no rest, rather only fear, anxiety, worry, anger, and frustration. That sure doesn’t sound like rest to me.
Yet 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 11:29-30)
He offers deep, soul satisfying rest and peace that passes understanding. (Philippians 4:6-7)
He offers joy regardless our lot. (2 Corinthians 12:10)
He offers rest that comes from knowing wherein our true identity lies. (Ephesians 1)
Now any good Christ-follower would proclaim quite robustly that God’s favor cannot be earned, but does he live like it? “I must do more. I must be more. I must be better.”
Oh we say we believe in grace. But do we really?
We check off our boxes. We get angry or despondent when we fail to reach perfection. Our spiritual lives are roller coasters. We’re up. We’re down. Today I wasn’t good enough. Today I nailed it. Today I royally ruined everything. We judge our sanctification based on our performances.
But here’s the truth. We can’t be good enough. And we don’t have to be.
Favor with God can never be earned, nor does it need to be. Jesus took on sin, and imputes His righteousness. This is what it means to live by grace. My own merit is as filthy rags. But when God looks at me He sees His Son. He sees righteousness.
Now let me clarify something. I’m not saying we don’t work. I’m not saying we never serve. I’m not saying we don’t obey. But out of what motive do we obey or do we serve? When we understand grace and soul satisfying rest, we’re free to work from the overflow of what Christ has accomplished. It becomes delight instead of duty.
Therefore, I can stop performing.
And I can stop my frenetic plate spinning. I can stop trying to be good enough. He has promised He will complete the work He began. (Philippians 1:6). What a lovely breath of fresh air!
When I am sick my body needs rest. Well who am I kidding, my body needs rest every day. And so does my weary, heavy ladened soul.
Believer, you can put down your striving. Through Christ, you already have all of God’s favor upon you. This is grace.
Jesus says. “Come to me… You will find rest for your souls.”