What were you doing a year ago? At the end of September 2019, my wife and I were embarked upon a two-week vacation of a lifetime, sailing through parts of the Mediterranean Sea. The overnight flight to Rome took 10 hours in the air plus there was an additional six hours’ time difference.
We arrived in Rome in the morning, shuffled through the lines at the airport, and found taxi arrangements to the hotel. There was plenty of time in the afternoon to take an excursion to the Coliseum, an adventure we had talked about for months. We settled our things into the hotel room and sat on the bed for a moment to gather our thoughts.
My thoughts were dictated by my tired body. The eyes barely blinked and it was dinner time. The physical weariness won over any sights that were begging to be experienced. Rest was the order of the first afternoon.
A lot has changed in a year. 2020 – the year of the Corona – has been a year of a lifetime. Health scares and concerns as COVID death tolls mount, economic woes skyrocket as workers are laid off and businesses close, as well as quarantines and distancing alter how we meet. As if all this wasn’t enough, our leadership cannot put aside differences to plan a united strategy for overcoming these challenges.
A year ago, physical weariness had set in. Immediate rest was required. Today, a spiritual weariness that ties knots in our spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health has invaded with orders to take no prisoners. Rest is desperately needed to combat this year’s weariness.
Spiritual weariness has a host of causes.
The changes to our routines have made me weary. The tsunami of the coronavirus has wreaked havoc and change in almost every part of our lives. Medical studies have shown that physical, emotional and cognitive changes can affect a person’s relationship and their ability to function at home and in the workplace. Change produces a low self-esteem, which in turn lessens our connections with others, our enthusiasm for life and our ability to do work.
The uncertainty about matters of health have made me weary. As of this writing, there were 7.26 million cases in the United States, and 207,000 deaths – 3632 deaths in Indiana; 1208 deaths in Kentucky. We still have uncertainties about what causes the disease, how long it stays active, how it is transmitted, and why some people show no symptoms and others die. Even after months of extensive research, many questions remain unanswered. There is no treatment, no vaccine and no cure.
The constant bickering in politics has made me weary. Advertisements on television several times an hour remind us how much is taken out of context, and although the candidate “approved this message,” how little of it comes from them but from a team of marketers. Perhaps no one knows weariness better than God Himself. Humbly put to Earth and a cross to alter the eternity of humanity, Jesus prayed to the intense level of sweating drops of blood in the garden. Grace and unconditional love allows weariness to be overcome.
The same God who understands being weary, teaches us extensively about rest. To a people where the culture wears busyness as a badge of honor, God urges us to breathe easier under a banner of rest. God’s heart for rest goes deeper than just a respect for the Sabbath, it teaches us the eternal value of ceasing from our labor.
Work and weariness seem to go hand in hand when it feels as if our work does no good. Isn’t that the heart of weariness right now? No matter what is done, the coronavirus continues. No matter what is done, our normals have gone away. No matter what is done, politicians bicker until we vote one of them out. The “work” we are doing that accomplishes nothing leaves us spiritually weary.
Perhaps before the sin in the Garden, work and rest walked together. The work accomplished something and the natural completion of work was rest. The rest allowed reflection upon the work (“and God saw that it was good”) and the rest restored the soul and prepared it for the next work. Sin – just as it drove a wedge between man and God — separated work from rest.
Jesus offers an incredible invitation with the power to free the spirit and to release the burdens that we carry. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NASB).
The world labels us by what we can do, who we know and our potential to perform. It seeks to shackle us to our past — we are who we are because of it, and we will never be able to escape it. Sounds like rhetoric spewed from the lips of the devil, doesn’t it?
Since the sin in the Garden, humans have spent their lives trying to “work” their way back into God’s graces. Man has hoped that if he could just cultivate enough from the soil, somehow it would make up for the sin and God would be pleased. Woman hoped the same for her contribution to the toil, but also prayed the day would come when one of her children would be better than her.
Isaiah offered a prophetic ray of hope. “The whole earth is at rest and is quiet; they break for into shouts of joy” (Isaiah 14:7 NASB). The day would come when we would rest from thinking we could work enough to please God. He accepted us graciously.
Over the next several weeks, let’s train our spiritual eyesight to focus on strength for the weary, finding and understanding God’s rest.