Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest... for My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28, 30)
Feeling exhausted and overwhelmed? This is probably the first verse that comes to mind when looking for solace in scripture. If you Google "bible verses for when you are feeling exhausted" you get this verse as a result about 8 times on the first search results page. Growing up in the church, I've heard this verse all of my life - and always have His promise at the tip of my tongue when I cry out those tired mama prayers.
It's funny how you can recall a piece of scripture so easily, and yet not actually know it intimately. I call some of these scriptures "away message verses" - all of you who grew up on AIM know what I'm talking about! - the "quotable" verses (for example, "for I know the plans I have for you" - Jer. 29:11; "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength" - Phil. 4:13) that reflect a mood you're experiencing or a promise you want to remember, but you've failed to study the context or surrounding scriptures to really understand what God was speaking through the author of the words.
Earlier this week in one of those overwhelming, exhausting moments, I opened up my Bible to this all familiar passage in Matthew and was surprised to discover - I had skipped a verse! Jesus's complete thought - not just his "away message verse" - actually read:
Come to me, all you 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." (Matt. 11:28-30)
All this time, I was focused on Jesus's promise but was ignoring his instruction - in order to find rest, I must take His example of being "gentle and lowly in heart". I decided to do some "research" (well, Google...) and prayerfully consider what it means to be "gentle" and "lowly in heart".
Here are some insights that I gathered about gentleness...
- Willing to yield
- Sensitive disposition
- Kind behavior
- Prompted by love
- Connected to humility
...and about lowliness:
- Humble; not elevated
- Free from pride
- Modest; without grandeur
So lowliness is a "heart-issue" involving dropping any notions of superiority and attributing nothing to myself but the One who made me. Gentleness is a "behavior-issue", flowing from a heart of love, requiring sensitivity to those around me, not being headstrong but taking others' opinions and feelings into account. Never needing to be "right" and always needing to be kind.
I haven't been willing to yield this week. I have been feeling superior. I have been proud. I have not showed my family or others around me kind behavior or a sensitive disposition. I have not been gentle or lowly in heart. While I have been harping on feelings of mental exhaustion, I have been full of myself. Rest will come when I kick "me" out so God is able to dwell in me! Almost all of the worries I have in my life right now stem from an elevated, unyielding attitude about certain things. When I let God transform that attitude and that behavior, when I give that up to God then I will be able to experience true rest for my soul, because I'll have a "peace that surpasses all understanding" (Phil. 4:7) and eyes that are fixed on Him.
By the way, notice above that I said this was Jesus's instruction. Like, these are His actual WORDS. So even if I didn't buy into this as a self-help method for my mental exhaustion, a true solution to a real problem - I would still have to follow this because He commanded me to! Who am I to argue with that. Yet another example of how God gives instruction and boundaries for me, for my own good, because He knows better than I do. When I'm seeking him with all of my heart, He makes it clear what He wants me to pay attention to, too! After I read and studied this verse on Monday, it appeared in the devotional I'm reading on Tuesday, and then again yesterday in the daily marriage prayer e-newsletter I receive each morning. Wow!
"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jer. 29:13)