By Yvette Cherry
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11: 28
Last Christmas I led the church services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The staff team at my church had been busy preparing for it, and the services were full of families who had come to gather to praise God on this most special occasion.
Half way into the service, in the middle of ‘O Holy Night’, I looked out at the sea of singing faces and an overwhelming feeling washed over me. I’d love to say the feeling was one of sheer joy, but actually, it was one of sheer exhaustion. In the busyness of the Christmas season, my brain chose that moment to register just how utterly depleted I felt.
Next came a moment of panic. I wanted to get down from the stage and walk out the door. But I couldn’t- I had a job to do. Instead, in my mind I went to another place. My body was present, leading the people in singing, but my mind had checked out. And taken me to the beach.
In my mind’s eye I saw myself swimming in the ocean.
Under silent, still blue water, gliding across white clear sand.
All too often I arrive back at this place in my life, of feeling overwhelmed and overdone, exhausted to the point of having nothing left to give. Partly it comes from the relentlessness of mothering four small children- it’s a job that never ends and allows for little rest. Partly it comes from working in a church, where the needs of people are so visible, and the opportunities to do “good” are endless. But if I’m honest, mainly the problem is me. I like to please people. Deep down I love being liked and needed. So I take on many things, my days are so full, cramming in all the needs and expectations of others, and pushing out what I need most.
There is an answer to this problem I face. It can be found in the instructions of Jesus. In Matthew 11:28 He says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Jesus knew how to meet the demands of everyday life without allowing them to consume Him. Jesus was well acquainted with suffering, loss, hardship and work. Everywhere He went crowds pressed in on him, seeking healing, asking questions, wanting Him to serve their needs. And Jesus could do it all; He raised the dead to life, fed the masses, made the blind see and the deaf hear. If anyone can understand endless need, it’s Jesus.
Yet even though He was so capable and so caring, Jesus also knew that He needed rest. Regularly Jesus retreated and spent time alone with God. He slipped out of crowds to climb hills and sit at the feet of His heavenly father. When His enemies sought to find him, Judas knew where to look- of course He would be in the garden, where He regularly went to pray. Jesus said no to the needs of plenty of people. He got up early. He prayed while others slept. He carved out time to be alone with God.
This Christmas is shaping up to look a lot like last Christmas. I tried to avoid it. I’ve said no to lots more things. But there are certain things that just have to be done. I still have to parent my four beautiful girls, and I’m still committed to a job that I love, and to loving and serving those around me.
But this year I am not doing it in my own strength. This year I am getting away with God. I am laying down the tasks, slipping away from the crowds, climbing the hill, occasionally waking early. I’m spending time alone with Him. I am allowing Him to tell me who I am. I am resting in the knowledge that His approval is the only approval that really matters. I am remembering that I am dearly loved by God. I am reading His word, talking to Him and listening to Him and sometimes, I’m just still and silent, knowing He is there.
This Christmas, you too might feel busy, rushed and as though you’ve reached your limit. It’s okay to slip away. It’s okay to take time out from it all and get alone with God. It’s okay to say no, I cannot do one more thing. God is waiting and wanting to be with you. To give you the rest that you need. He wants to be part of the rhythm of your day. The rhythm of the work and the rest, of the doing for God, and simply being with Him.
The Message version of the bible says it like this, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)
What a beautiful promise!
Yvette Cherry is a weekend blogger, wife, mum to four little girls, worship leader, student at Perth’s Vose Seminary, speaker and self-confessed tracky-pants-wearing dork. She loves to write honestly about the struggles and the joys of life. You can find her online at www.yvettecherry.com, facebook.com/yvettecherryauthor, instagram.com/yvettecherry or twitter.com/YvetteCherry20