“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
When I first became a parent, which coincided with when I began this blog, I think I wrote about sleep at least once a year. While I haven't written about it in a while, and with children that are beyond newborn and toddler stages, sleep is something that continues to elude me.
If I expect that I might get to bed early, one of them can't sleep. On rare mornings when I can actually sleep in, one or more of them is up prematurely.
My lack of sleep isn't all their fault. In fact, it's probably unfair to continue to blame my tiredness on them - if it was ever fair at all. I frequently find myself staying up late and/or waking up early to work or workout or to do things less productive (like blogging!).
So, when Jesus talks about rest, there is a longing in my heart to meet Him wherever He is. Could I just wake up once and not feel like I need more sleep?
But, whereas Jesus might be offering some of us a semblance of physical rest, especially as it might pertain to chronic issues, I believe that Jesus is actually referring to the type of rest that St. Augustine famously said can only be found in God.
There is a restlessness in our hearts that the world cannot quiet. Fame, power, wealth, pleasure, honor, relationships, likes, material possessions, followers, esteem all lead to restlessness. None of them can pacify the true desire of our hearts.
Even our ministries can be pursued for reasons other than His honor and glory. I really hope that God shows up in this ____________. I just hope that He shows up as a result of my efforts more than someone else's.
Carrying out our vocations - in my case as a husband and father - can also be driven by pride instead of love. Can people see me as a devoted husband? Will people think I'm a good father because my kids are well behaved?
From all of these desires, Lord, deliver me.
When we come to truly accept Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life, we can see that when we follow Him, we can more easily navigate this world. It doesn't mean that you'll get a full 8 hours of sleep each night, but it does mean that you won't feel so slighted when a coworker or boss overlooks that you were involved in a project. You won't chase after pats on the back or atta-boys/girls. Purpose will become more important than a paycheck and you will be more driven by love than likes.
Discipleship is hard and laying down our lives in service of God entails great sacrifice.
But, in Him we can find deliverance from the restlessness caused by so many aspects of this world. In Him, we can continue to find the strength to do the work He has entrusted to us to do.
Pray. Read the scriptures. Participate in the sacraments. Surround yourself with like-minded disciples.
He's there to offer help, healing, refreshment, strength, and rest.
St. Paul encourages us, "I have the strength for everything through Him who empowers me" (Philippians 4:13) and "Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen" (Ephesians 3:20-21).
If our labors are for His kingdom, in service of His power, and in pursuit of His glory, may we take comfort in the fact that no matter how tired, labored, or burdened we are, He will make it seem easy and light. He wants us to be faithful. If it's His will, He will make our efforts successful. We will have strength for everything, and far more than all we ask or imagine, by His power that is at work within us.
Of this, may we rest assured.