Weariness is a strange thing—it creeps us on us little by little. Like the way a puddle is formed by a steady accumulation of raindrops, weariness soaks our soul subtly; it is a slow drowning, an increasing dimming and then one day we just wake up and it is dark. Have you felt it? Listen and Read as we continue to explore what rest and hope in a season of weariness looks like, this week in the Biblical story of Ruth and Naomi
“When Naomi saw that Ruth had her heart set on going with her, she gave in. And so the two of them traveled on together to Bethlehem.” Ruth 1:19 The Message Translation
Naomi was devastated and without hope. Her husband and sons had died and as a widow at that time in history, Naomi’s future was filled with fear, threat and difficulty. With no one to provide for the family and no cultural means of supporting widows, Naomi’s life faced ruin. These dire circumstances left Naomi and her daughters-in-law vulnerable physically and emotionally. Naomi was so emotionally distraught that she asked to be called, “Bitter.”
Maybe you can identify with Naomi and recall a time in your life when things seemed so grim that you felt hopeless, alone, and bitter. Tragedy and pain have a way to pulling life out from underneath us leaving us physically vulnerable and emotionally devastated. With all we’ve encountered this past year, we are all likely on the brink of coming apart, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
“If you don’t come apart for a while, you will come apart after a while.” Dallas Willard
Are you coming apart? I think if we took an honest assessment of our lives, the answer would probably be yes. Maybe it’s your marriage or significant relationship. Finances. Anxiety or depression or both. Grieving so many losses. Disconnected from God. Naomi’s life came apart and yet we can see in her story how God was incredibly faithful in the midst of her unraveling.
Our lives, too, can feel on the brink of unraveling and although we sense it, we aren’t sure what to do. We read the words of Dallas Willard and wonder what it means and how we could come apart for a while. Jesus invites us to consider these words.
“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 Translation
Jesus invites us to consider these three self-reflecting questions and let Him restore us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. To come apart with Him so we don’t come apart within.
- Are you tired?
Consider pausing for a few moments and focusing on your level of physical exhaustion. On a scale of being completely well-rested to incredibly exhausted, where do you fall?
Jesus knows why you are tired. For some of you, He knows you are parenting young kids who haven’t yet learned the beautiful gift of a full night’s rest. For others of you, He sees that you’re carrying a weight of worry that impacts your sleep. Jesus also understands the demands of work that have many of you staying up late and getting up incredibly early most days. Because Jesus knows, sees, and understands, He extends this invitation for rest: “Come to me.”
That sounds nice, but how exactly do we go to Jesus when we are physically exhausted? Practically speaking, consider these three options for rest for the body.
- Deep breaths are simple and very replenishing to the body. Go ahead a take one right now to see for yourself. According to Positive Psychology, deep breaths regulate the nervous system, enhances vitality by increasing our brain waves. Deep breaths also boost respiratory performance and improve biochemical and metabolic processes. Pausing to take a three deep breaths every hour can be a simple way to give your body and brain much needed oxygen.
- Make sleep a priority. Sleeping sustains us physically. Even though we may fight getting extra sleep and can be tempted to fill our time with activity, many times the most life-giving thing we can do is sleep. Sleep is critical to our physical health. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, sleep is key in the healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Furthermore, ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Making sleep a priority could include napping when your kids do, intentionally disconnecting from screens thirty minutes before you want to go to sleep or installing black-out blinds or curtains to block early morning sunlight.
- Remember the Sabbath. Sabbath is an entire day set aside for rest. Out of the Ten Commandments, observing the weekly Sabbath has been the one I have struggled with most. I would imagine for the majority of us, Sabbath sounds nice, but seems more of an option that practically isn’t feasible. But Jesus taught that Sabbath was made for us because we desperately need it. Taking twenty-four hours to rest and replenish is not a luxury, but a rhythm that we are made for. But taking this time is a big invitation to say yes to, especially if you have little ones or a busy family schedule, but it is possible.
A friend shared this analogy that can be helpful to consider as an entry point for practicing Sabbath: she treats Sabbath as a weekly special day, like Christmas. If she wouldn’t do something, like laundry or grocery shopping, on Christmas, she chooses not to do it on Sabbath. I think that’s a beautiful way to begin to think about Sabbath.
- Are you worn out?
Not only are we physically exhausted, but most of us are emotionally exhausted as well. The challenge is that unlike physical exhaustion, emotional exhaustion often presents as depression, anxiety, symptoms like headaches and stomach aches, or temptations to escape or numb out. Jesus invites you to pause and consider the state of your emotions. What are you feeling? Are you sad, mad, scared, confused, happy, or a combination of these? (Click here for a copy of a Feeling Words Chart) Studies show we experience over 400 emotions a day. Feelings are not right or wrong, but we need to make sure we are handling them in healthy ways. If you hold them in or take them out on others, they will exhaust you and those around you because they weigh you down and become destructive. Consider identifying three feelings a day as a place to start to help with your emotional exhaustion. Identifying our feelings by journaling or talking to God about them is another way to find rest.
- Are you burned out on religion?
You might find it strange that Jesus asks this question. But throughout Jesus’ ministry, He makes a distinction between being in relationship with Him and being religious. We can become spiritually exhausted when we work to earn God’s love. There’s nothing we can do to earn God’s love. Instead, we are invited into daily rhythms of connecting with God, to grow in our relationship with Him. Spiritual disciplines such as silence, solitude, Scripture reading, prayer, and retreat are pathways that open our lives up to God. If you are interested in learning more about these disciplines I would love to meet with you and connect you with resources. Two of the most life-giving and yet challenging spiritual disciplines I have found are silence and solitude. Being alone with God in quiet reflects Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” Your invitation for spiritual replenishment may be two minutes in silence and solitude each day. Silence and solitude are moments of intentional time alone with God is quiet. It may require getting up a little bit early or turning the radio off in the car on your way home, but silence and solitude are practices that settle and center us. Jesus modeled these two practices in His life as we see in the Gospels numerous times Jesus went off by Himself to be alone with the Father.
God also invites us into relationship with others. Ruth was not going to leave Naomi. She was loyal and faithful, even if it meant that they were going to struggle and possibly die together. We are created to be in relationship with God and each other. When we can face life’s struggles with someone, we don’t feel alone and as vulnerable.
Several years ago I faced a health issue that brought about a lot of feelings. Looking back, I felt helpless and overwhelmed. In my unraveling, I isolated, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But thankfully I had several “Ruths” in my life who pushed through my barrier of isolation. They walked alongside me and invited me to share what I was feeling, went with me to appointments and tests, and prayed for and with me. My friends and family made the journey bearable and kept me from coming apart. Their love and support were such amazing gifts that I continue to be grateful for today.
As you consider where you find yourself today, are you physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually weary? What step might God be inviting you to consider as a way to “Come to Me”? You might have to push through barriers to tackle your weariness, but your responses to Jesus’ invitation to come to Him can change your life in beautiful, life-giving ways.