I can’t count how many times I have lived life in my own strength. I identify goals and plans, strategies, and then ask God to help me after the fact. I can’t count how many times I have worried about the outcomes, thinking that they are all on my shoulders to bear.
This is a major problem when it comes to keeping people alive within my work in Psychiatry. This is a major problem when I have no control over the outcome. It is an illusion. However, I spend countless hours and days stewing over the question, “Did I do enough?” However, there is a better way. Jesus invites us into a life of active rest. This is also called abiding. This is a life where we are leaning on God and depending on Him for the outcomes, we just show up and do what is right as we follow in His footsteps loving God and loving others.
What keeps us from this active rest? For me, it’s faith. I have trusted myself and my own abilities over the God of the universe. But why? There are times when I felt like He should have acted in my favor, and I felt like He let me down. I believe He is all powerful and can do anything. But does He want to help me? I have wrestled with this over the years, specifically after I sustained a trauma where I could no longer trust myself either. I needed someone to lean on, and I found that someone to be the unchanging, immutable God who would be there for me when I was at the end of myself, and only He could pick up the pieces. After a lot of soul searching, prayers, and tears, I have come to believe that God does want the best for me and is working in my favor. Sometimes my favor is not what I want or believe is best, but I have to believe that God is good, all of the time. I see the proof of His goodness and the proof that He would go to any length to save me, help me, and love me through His death on the cross.
Romans 8:31 (ESV)
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Jesus spoke to the Jewish people who were burdened by the law and oppressed by the Pharisees, the religious leaders. These people were constantly striving to earn God’s favor and trying to be good enough to go to heaven. Jesus’ invitation here is two-fold. First, He invites them to enter into spiritual rest through eternal life as they trust Him. Second, He invites them to become His disciple as he asks them to take His yoke. A yoke was what the farmers put on two oxen so that they could share a load. They would typically pair an experienced oxen with an inexperienced oxen so that the younger one could learn not to race ahead and wear himself out too soon. Jesus invites us to yoke ourselves with Him. He came to take our sins and pay the punishment we deserve so that we can take on His innocence and righteousness. He came to bring us peace, and give us His power and strength to complete the mission in this life.
Matthew 11:29 (ESV)
“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.”
What yoke or burden are you carrying? Are you dealing with worldly cares, or trying to live in your own strength?
Henri J.M. Nouwen spoke of all of the worries and fears in his heart that weigh him down on a daily basis. We must choose. Who will we lean on and depend on to walk with us in this life? Will we choose to go it alone, yoke ourselves with Jesus, or find someone else or something else to depend on that one day will fail us?
“All of these mental games reveal to me the fragility of my faith that I am the Beloved One on whom God’s favor rests. I am so afraid of being disliked, blamed, put aside, passed over, ignored, persecuted, and killed, that I am constantly developing strategies to defend myself and thereby assure myself of the love I think I need and deserve. And in so doing I move far away from my father’s home and choose to dwell in a “distant country.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen