I was in a conversation recently with someone who was overwhelmed with some major difficulties in her life. She said she didn’t want to hear anyone tell her that God won’t give her more than she can handle, because she already had more than she could handle. (Thankfully, I hadn’t said that, but apparently someone else had said so.)
There are times when platitudes, though well-meaning, fall flat. It isn’t easy to know what to say to someone who is struggling.
I spoke to someone else today who is grieving the recent loss of her mother and has other challenges. Another person’s mother is in chemotherapy with pancreatic cancer. I know a mom who has several children with debilitating conditions. What does one say?
This post doesn’t have any of those answers. There are definitely times when nothing can be said, or should be said, and our job is simply to be there, to listen.
I was thinking about what Jesus said, though. He said:
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. ~Matthew 11:28
Jesus says, “Come.”
He doesn’t give us a to-do list. He doesn’t give us a list of conditions we must fulfill to approach him.
He simply says, “Come to me.”
With the command “come” is also a corresponding promise: “I will give you rest.”
Jesus says if we come, he will give us rest. It’s a promise. There is no bartering, there are no strings. He will give us the gift of rest. All we have to do is come and do nothing more.
It means we can come as we are. We can come with a questioning faith. We can come hesitatingly. We can come not even believing. Jesus didn’t give us any conditions.
Jesus’ hands are open. He simply asks us to come, and he will give.
I think it is hard to understand this kind of rest. At least it is for me. I do not automatically understand this kind of rest.
We live in an individualistic culture that values the self-made image. We aren’t accustomed to the kind of vulnerability and humility that coming to Jesus requires.
If we are typically operating on our own, in our own flesh, which many of us are, we will get tired quickly and easily. If we aren’t going to Jesus, it means we are going elsewhere. These “elsewheres” may offer a temporary rest, but it is not a true rest.
We are also accustomed to finding quick answers. We can find almost any answer by googling it… except for the answers that really matter: What is my purpose? Who is God? Does God exist? Why am I here? Is this all there is to life? Is there an afterlife? Does God care about me?
Google can’t answer how to go through the difficulties of life. Google can’t tell us why we’re here. (Nor are answers found in a wine bottle, a bottle of pills, self-help guides, self-destructive behavior, or well-intentioned advice.)
Going to Jesus, and letting him give us rest, means that we can have a rest that is deeper than our own understanding. We can rest knowing that we aren’t, and can’t, be in control. We can rest knowing that all things will work together for good. We can rest in the knowledge that he loves us and cares for us, and nothing will change that. We can rest knowing God is doing something good and big and incomprehensibly wonderful.
Perhaps we have to learn how to accept this rest, just as we have to learn how to work on a particular task; perhaps it is too contrary to our natural tendencies of wanting to do things on our own. Reminiscent of the garden, we think we know better and can be like God.
No wonder we do not find this rest so easily.
It may sound like another platitude to say “go to Jesus to find rest”, but the words Jesus spoke are truth.