"Anything I can keep in prayer for you?" I asked my friend.
"Just.....to make it through the holidays," my friend said with a long sigh. Have you ever shared this sentiment?
The holiday season can be exhausting. Work parties, family reunions, gifts to buy, and the seemingly unending barrage of Christmas advertisements--although none of these things is inherently "bad," they do have a tendency to busy our schedules to the point of mental and physical breakdown.
Not only that, but this year's Christmas season feels a lot different than year's past, merely due to the insurmounting number of people suffering in the world right now because of innumerable problems and conflicts. While we worry about our busy schedules, others are worrying about how to secure their next meal. The collective effect of all this pressure is a general distractedness from affectionately following Jesus with all our might. How do we navigate the holidays successfully this year?
I believe one answer is rest.
We all need rest, and we all certainly need Jesus. As I ponder how to "make it through the holidays," as my friend so aptly put it, I am drawn to two often-used-but-beautiful passages in Scripture: John 16:33 and Matthew 11:28-30. These two passages give us at least three reasons to pursue restfulness in Christ during this year's holiday season.
1) In Jesus, there is peace.
John 16:33 says, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." If you asked my wife or any of my close friends what is the biggest stress in my life right now, they'd all tell you the same thing: "Chase tries to carry the entire world on his shoulders." This doesn't make me a hero, it just makes me prideful and perhaps overconfident in my ability to solve the world's problems. And we all know what the truth of this matter is: Jesus Christ is the only One who can carry the entire world on His shoulders. Plus, through His gracious and merciful sacrifice on the Cross, death and sin have been defeated thus rendering the world's problems completely solvable through Him. I love this verse because Jesus acknowledges that there will indeed continue to be trouble during this season and every season. He doesn't ignore that--BUT, He also promises us that He has overcome all of it. We can lean into Christ in order to feel restful peace this season.
2) Jesus invites us to come to Him.
Matthew 11:28 says, "Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Whether you find Jesus most when you are alone or you find Him most when you are in a crowd of friends, Jesus invites us to come to Him when we feel weary. He does not leave us to our own devices when things get hard or times become troubling. He does not force us to meet some list of requirements before we can speak to Him. Instead, Jesus just invites us to "Come." This is a tremendous comfort to me. Personally, I find the most rest in Christ when I spend time in the Word during the quiet hours of the morning. During the busy holiday season, I can even find that rest in those few minutes of alone time when driving to various Christmas parties, or between different gift shops. Along with the invitation, Jesus promises that He will give us rest, like a gift on Christmas morning.
3) Jesus walks with us.
Matthew 11: 29-30 says, "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." Back in the day, a "yoke" was a large device that farmers would place across the shoulders of a team of oxen to assist in plowing the fields. In these verses, Jesus is essentially saying that he will share a new yoke with us, instead of letting us struggle along through the field on our own. Remember, Jesus was born of a virgin as a human being. He came down onto our level in order to reach us. He promises us that this new yoke, His yoke, is easy and not nearly as burdensome as the yoke we try to carry by ourselves. If we allow Him to take our heavy, sin-laded yoke away in order to give us a new, life-giving yoke that He shares with us as He walks alongside of us, we will truly find the deepest of all rest.
As you get ready to add one more event to your calendar, I challenge you to consider these passages. Take a good hard look at the condition of your body, mind, and soul and ask yourself, "Where and how do I find the most restfulness in Christ?" Then, pursue that rest sometime in the next 3 weeks. I pray that Jesus will heal you as much as He has healed me.
-written by Chase Cotten, Media Director @ IDES