I’m going to Disney World (not really)

I struggle to reconcile two ideas that seem to compete: work and rest. Either I am resting or I am working, but I cannot do both at the same time, can I?  Yes, I can and I should. Jesus Christ teaches that work and rest are complementary in our lives: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NLT)  He invites me to put on His yoke, which is an object for doing hard work, but then immediately says that in that yoke I will find rest. How can this be?
Part of my confusion grows out of a misunderstanding of work itself.
·         If my work is the means of proving my worth to myself or my friends, I am driven by competition and thus I can never rest for another may become better than I am at what I do, an intolerable outcome for a competitor.
·         If I believe that my work is how I gain God’s approval, I will never relax for He is always present, knowing what I do; and I can never do enough.
·         If I misuse work as a way to create my own world where I can be a little god, obviously there is a problem that needs no further explanation!
The deepest fulfillment in life is found in working effectively within the will and purpose of God! We were not created for leisure. We were made to be stewards of the earth, to work with Him. The Genesis story is often told in a way that makes us think that Adam spent his time lying under a shade tree, eating fruit that fell into his hands. A more careful reading reveals that Adam joined God in the work of the Garden. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15, NIV) That paradise included work. Yet, it did not include exhaustion or burn-out.  So, how do we work the Garden and keep our spirit whole?
Jesus’ words quoted earlier show us the way. Work done with God is renewing. If we submit to His yoke, He will pace us so that we do not run too hard, too far, or too fast in our efforts. In that shared yoke, when the load increases, He leans into it alongside of us. If we do what we do, in the way He teaches us to do it, there is rest for our souls. It sounds so simple and it is, yet we miss that Truth as we focus on deadlines, bottom lines, and productivity. How we work is much more important to God than what we produce. That is why Jesus asks to go to work with us. He wants to save us from empty effort, from exhaustion that comes from trying to make work what it can never be- the means of our salvation and right relationship with our Father.
The ancient song of ascents, sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem, reminds us of the proper order of our work.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.” (Psalm 127:1-3, NIV)
Are you exhausted? Has life become more than you can manage?
Before you conclude that you must abandon your work or that you need to head to Disney World for a rest, consider changing the way you work!
 

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)

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