So often we complain about being so…tired…worn out…stressed…discouraged. In a stressful society where love is an illusion, it is quite easy to feel depressed. Some say: "That's life!" But it doesn't have to be.
What's even worse is that many are burnt-out on religion. Everything they do seems to be nothing more than a pretense, or worse, a condemnation of others. Religion, after all, is when people try to earn approval from some kind of god. No wonder we so often end up burnt-out and disillusioned!
Our Heavenly Father is the One who pursues us, not the other way around. He is the One who loves us beyond our imagination, so much so that He offers us rest and peace, if we just accept Him for whom He is. All He wants is to have a pure relationship with us. Who in their right mind would want to refuse His offer?
Unfortunately, so many do. Is it any wonder there's a lot of depression out there?
Jesus encourages us to "get away" from the hustle and bustle of life and walk with Him instead. He invites us to experience Him fully, discovering "real rest" that only He can provide. That's what happens when we start to experience our Heavenly Father. We find out what real rest looks like, and instead of having a break-down, we find ourselves relaxed and at peace. We will learn from our Father to leave everything in His care. By doing so we show our trust in Him and we experience rest, even amidst turmoil. Why worry? Our Father is in control.
We can learn a lot from Jesus. Here are a couple of real life experiences about what real rest looks like…
Adversity knocking on Christmas Eve: Facing trials, no matter what kind, can be done with inner peace, as long as our focus is totally on Jesus, the only One who can give inner peace.
Sunday night we experienced freezing rain. The accumulated build-up of ice caused extensive power outages in our region that lasted for most of the day. Our electric sump pump stopped working, and the basement flooded. All the furniture and drywall in our lower basement were ruined. Part of life we decided. At least it was just some cheap furniture that was half-ruined anyway. It could have been worse.
When we discovered we had no hot water, we realized that it had, indeed, been worse…
Since our hot water tank is a rental, we called the company who owned the unit, and they sent out a technician. Unfortunately for him, it was Christmas Eve and he had to work. Unfortunately for us, he arrived just as we were starting our Christmas Eve festivities. Unfortunately for our budget, the technician had some grim news to share with us: "Merry Christmas. Your rented hot water tank is ruined by the flood. Since your rental agreement doesn't cover flooding, you will have to buy out this unit for 900$. Oh, and because of the holidays and the number of people in the same predicament as you are from the ice storm, we won't be able to replace the unit until Friday. Have a nice day!"
He was, actually, far more caring then these recorded words make him sound. Nonetheless, it came as a shock. The reason we had taken a rental water heater in the first place was so that we would never have to worry if it malfunctioned! Of course, we never bothered to read the fine print stating that flooding was not covered…
When the technician left our home that night, we sat back down to worship our Savior's birth. Whenever we are faced with bad news, however, it generally remains the focus of our thoughts, and that night was no exception. After all, such a large sum of money would shake anyone up.
These somber thoughts had only been in my mind for a couple of minutes when I began to hear God's sweet voice: "Are you aware that this is a personal attack from the evil one himself, who wants to ruin what I have prepared for you?" A bible text then came to mind: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Eph 6:12, NIV)
I immediately rebuked this attack in Jesus' name and made the decision that I would enjoy the Presence of my Lord instead. My soul was filled with peace and I was able to enjoy every minute of our festivities--especially while we worshipped the One who had made it all possible: Jesus Himself.
As my wife and I experienced total inner peace, the negative thoughts never resurfaced. This is far from the norm for me. In the past I would rehash these negative thoughts for days on end, never experiencing a single moment of peace. I used to be a worrier, magnifying my problems a thousandfold, but it is a thing of the past. The difference is that Matthew 11:28 has become a reality to me. If we truly abandon ourselves to God instead of to ourselves, Jesus truly gives us rest.
Havoc on the Road: Last Thursday, January 20th, 2012, near the end of my workday, the weather turned deadly. Heavy snow began falling, quickly reducing the visibility to "0". As I stepped out of the building, snow clung to every exposed part of my body, and I couldn't see even a foot in front of my face. I was in the middle of a whiteout. Yet despite the less-than-ideal weather conditions, I still had to get home.
It was funny that the day before someone had told me about a whiteout experience, and I declared to that person that there was no way I would ever drive anywhere in such circumstances.
Yet here I was, cleaning my car of this sticky, heavy snow.
I'm not real sure why I even bothered. No sooner had I finished clearing the snow from a window when the newly-fallen stuff would again coat that surface.
Still I was determined. I had to get home.
Once in the car, I was literally dripping with snow. My hair was covered and my glasses were completely fogged over. Nevertheless I wiped my glasses and started the car. I'm not sure why I bothered defogging my glasses either, for no sooner had I finished when I needed to start over again!
Not that it mattered much. I couldn't see anything at all, even without my glasses! I couldn't even see the car in front of me. How would I ever get home?
But I was persistent. I turned on my emergency lights so as to be a bit more visible to those who shared my road, and I drove slowly, ever so slowly. I didn't have a choice, really. You can't drive fast when you can't see! Besides, anyone around me were driving slow as well.
When I glanced at my knuckles I realized that I was gripping the steering wheel with all my strength. No way would I let it out of my grasp! As I watched my knuckles grow white from the strain, I finally realized that I was a bit too tense.
I also realized I was trying to be in control of my circumstances. How completely ridiculous! Who can control whiteout conditions! I sure can't!
It's then that I concluded that I was doing it again. I was trying to be my old self again , and my insistence on being in control was filling me with anxiety. "Heavenly Father," I humbly prayed, "I'm doing it again! I'm trying to be in control and it fills me with terror. These circumstances are way out of my league. I can't be in control, so I will step off the high position I try to occupy, and I invite You to be in control of my life and circumstances. I will rest now in Your arms, knowing full well that whatever happens will be for the best. Thank You Father for being there for me."
That's when I was filled with total peace. My grip on the steering wheel relaxed, and I actually started to enjoy the experience. Why? Because I began to see my circumstances from a different light. My Heavenly Dad was taking care of me, and now I could just enjoy my ride. Yes! Even amidst this storm, these whiteout conditions!
Naturally I arrived safely home in the shelter of my God. He is my fortress after all!
Only later did I learn that a clipper system had gone over our region, bringing embedded heavy bursts of snow with strong winds and significantly reducing visibility. These whiteouts conditions closed two nearby highways, where 32-vehicle pile-ups were reported. Other accidents were reported as well, just like the car I saw in the ditch.
What's your choice: Continue to be worn out or experience pure rest? What would you prefer?
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