Rest and Joy

Life is hard. Life is busy. Sometimes life is downright painful, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I know. My life in the past seven years has sometimes felt like a marathon of agony–from the moment Joel’s betrayal was exposed, through his sentencing and incarceration, his halfway house time, and reentry into our home, along with a myriad of steps along the way. Now, three years into Joel’s being home, his neck pain is so severe, Joel has trouble functioning in daily life. Another milestone in our marathon.  More pain to bear….

But don’t get me wrong, somewhere in the agony I have found a hope, a joy, and precious trust, I never thought possible. And I have discovered in my hour of deepest need that “it’s not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.”

Often in the the middle of this agonizing race, I have attempted to manage, to drag myself through the difficulties with a series of self-talk, determination, and boundless energy. It has not worked, not even once. Instead I find myself even more weary, less focused, and shackled by inner turmoil. Trying to understand and manage my situation is wearying.

Is this your story too?

Maybe you’ve been there too: telling yourself to buckle up, to shape up and work harder, reminding yourself of others who have it worse than you, consciously disciplining yourself to do what has to be done, waking up early, staying up late, working at all hours, and keeping the turmoil at bay within. Does this sound familiar to you? It doesn’t take a catastrophic tragedy to drive us to this kind of living. It is the natural bent of our humanity–it’s just that tragedy tends to bring out that natural bent.

Jeremiah Experienced it too

This morning as I was reading through Jeremiah I was struck by two small verses in the middle of chapter 31. Jeremiah truly lived a marathon of agony. He was the prophet to the unrelenting, unrepentant, unyielding nation of Israel at the time of God’s judgement. He begged them to listen and wept at their stubborn indifference. Then he begged God to do something and wept over that. What a struggle he faced within and without.  Rest wasn’t an obvious earmark of the very difficult life Jeremiah lived. Then in chapter 31 Jeremiah has a vision, apparently while sleeping. The end of the vision is God’s words in verse 25: “I have given rest to the weary and joy to the sorrowing.” and in 26 Jeremiah says, “At this I woke up and looked around…my sleep had been very sweet.” Jeremiah experienced immediately the very promise God spoke through him!

Oh, what a comfort and encouragement these words are to me. It is God and only God who gives rest for the weary and joy to the sorrowing.

The Joy of the Lord is my strength!

No matter what kind of marathon I find myself entrenched in; no matter what griefs and endless troubles dog your path, God himself gives rest to the weary. God himself gives joy to the sorrowing. It is no mistake that a generation later, Nehemiah, the prophet of God when Israel returned to their homeland proclaimed, “The joy of the Lord is your strength!” Indeed it is God’s strength that results in tremendous joy in my life…not my own efforts–either mental, physical or spiritual. The only strength that results in joy is the strength of His Spirit within.

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