Today’s guest blog is by Stephanie Anderson, EPM staff member. Steph is one of the most Christ-centered, biblically-grounded, and highly skilled people I know. I marvel at the work she does, and the same is true of the rest of our staff. But when you’re a hard worker, as a mom, nurse, business person, farmer, or anything else, you need to pay special attention to Jesus the Rest-giver, who gives us this beautiful invitation: “Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, GNT).
There are countless good books, both nonfiction and fiction, which can feed your soul and mind, and many of them (not all) will help you relax. Here’s a book list I put together years ago that was recently updated and revised by Chelsea Dudley, now covering many resources in addition to books. Too much news overload these days will burn you out, but good books, including audio books, can entertain and not stress you out in the process. Nanci and I have listened to a few dozen audio books already this year, including the entire England-based Cherringham Cosy Crime series, which are short and engaging mysteries without blood and gore and bad language. (BTW, though it’s spelled cozy in the USA, it’s cosy in most of the rest of the English-speaking world.)
Here’s a video recommendation for those who, like Stephanie, are needing to find rest that is spiritually uplifting in ways that binge watching, for instance, rarely is: view the 2003 movie The Gospel of John, free on Amazon Prime. Nanci and I watched it again last week. It’s WORD FOR WORD the Gospel of John (GNT) and is a wonderful visual display. I wept at the wonder of God’s Word revealing Jesus. It’s magnificent. Therapy for the soul, every word from Him!
Also, we highly recommend you watch the eight episodes of the new TV series The Chosen (plus the pilot called “The Shepherd”) which so far has covered the early ministry of Jesus. I think you’ll really enjoy it!
Okay, below are Stephanie’s excellent thoughts. —Randy Alcorn
There have been so many incredible, Christ-centered articles written lately and videos recorded about how we are to think, who we are to be, and what we are to do during this coronavirus crisis. I’m grateful for them.
But I have a confession.
I’ve reached my saturation point. Right now I am simply overwhelmed by reading and listening to them. The type-A, perfectionistic part of me hears, “Just do more. Be more” at a time when I feel like I have even less to give.
This morning, as I rolled out of bed and put my feet on the floor, I thought, Here’s another day. And I’m tired. It’s not even breakfast time, and I’m already weary.
With not much to distinguish between the days of the week (what day is it today?!), my life has taken on a routine of schooling my children, finishing my work, and getting dinner on the table, in that order. All of it is good! All of it is necessary. These are the responsibilities the Lord has given me, and they are the ways I can serve Him with joy right now.
Still, most days that’s about all I’m able to accomplish.
I’m truly grateful for my family and my life, especially when I consider how many people around the world are experiencing severe suffering and loss because of the coronavirus. Overall, I have it pretty easy. (The sun is even shining in the Pacific Northwest, a great cause for rejoicing!)
But that doesn’t mean this season isn’t hard. All of us, in some sense, are facing losses, struggles, and anxieties that are draining and difficult.
Here in Oregon, last week we learned that school is officially cancelled for the rest of the school year. While most of us knew that announcement was coming, I’ve been struck by how my reaction to this news felt like…grief. And it wasn’t just me. My social media feeds have been filled with heartfelt laments from teacher friends who are missing their students and mom friends who are mourning their children’s losses—and their own losses, too. No senior events. No kindergarten or 8th grade or high school graduations. No spring sports and no recitals. No field trips, no end-the-school-year festivities.
Add to that economic pressures, concerns for those we love, and the loss of physical connection with friends and family and church bodies because of social distancing.
Yes, this season is hard.
And I think I am not alone in feeling weary.
As I got myself ready this morning, I prayed what’s a familiar prayer lately: Lord, I desperately need your strength.
This reminded me of the first verse of a Psalm our church is memorizing together while we’re apart physically:
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
Then I remembered some advice from my hero Joni Eareckson Tada that has stuck with me over the years, and later this morning, I reread it: “…the Apostle Paul said, ‘Boast in your afflictions.’ Don’t be ashamed of them. Don’t think you have to hide them and gussy yourself up before God in the morning so that He’ll be happy with you and see that you’re really believing in Him. No, no, no. Admit you can’t do this thing called life. Then cast yourself at the mercy of God and let Him show up through your weakness because that’s what He promises—2 Corinthians 12:9.”
Yes, that’s what I need. To admit my weakness, and to trust in the promise of God’s infinite, ever-accessible strength.
I don’t need another to-do list or more expectations for myself. Right now, I need His rest.
I don’t need to be consumed by all I have to do or should be doing. I do need to stop and focus on the Savior. I can trust that through His Word, His Holy Spirit, and the encouragement of His people, He will direct me to what I should be doing in this season, and He will empower me to do it.
I need His help. His comfort. His peace. His direction.
I’m so glad that’s exactly what He promises. Jesus told us, “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” (Matthew 11:29).
Our God is “the God of endurance and encouragement” (Romans 15:5). How I love that phrase! Endurance. Encouragement. Two things I desperately need right now, and that only He can provide for me.
We may forget from time to time just how needy we are, but God knows our weaknesses. His Word overflows with good news for the weary—promises to give strength and rest to His children:
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart celebrates, and I give thanks to him with my song. The Lord is the strength of his people; he is a stronghold of salvation for his anointed. Save your people, bless your possession, shepherd them, and carry them forever” (Psalm 28:7-9, CSB).
“The LORD gives his people strength; the LORD blesses his people with peace” (Psalm 29:11, CSB).
“Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31, ESV).
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, ESV).
“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, NIV).
So here I am, still going through the same day-to-day-routine, but looking to God’s strength. I’m asking Him to open my eyes to the needs of those around me that I might miss right now in my weariness. I’m praying He will give me the ability to meet those needs, for His glory, and grant me the strength to serve my family and do the work He has given me to do, with joy and thanksgiving.
I’m trusting that I don’t need to be more or do more in my own strength.
I simply need to rest in His strength.
Here’s more encouragement from God’s people that I have found helpful:
“Come, and however feeble you feel, just wait in His presence. As a feeble, sickly invalid is brought out into the sunshine to let its warmth go through him, come with all that is dark and cold in you into the sunshine of God's holy, omnipotent love. Sit and wait there, with the one thought: Here I am, in the sunshine of His love. As the sun does its work in the weak one who seeks its rays, God will do His work in you.” —Andrew Murray
“Sometimes, in moments of pride, we need to fear Him and repent. Other times, in moments of brokenness and despair, we need to just bathe in His grace, and see His smile and hear Him say, ‘Well done, enter into your Master’s joy.’ We need to cast our cares upon Him, because He cares for us, come onto Him when we’re weary and heavy laden, and He will give us rest.” —Randy Alcorn
“When really weak in ourselves, and conscious of that weakness, we are in the state suited to the manifestation of the power of God. When emptied of ourselves, we are filled with God. Those who think they can change their own hearts, atone for their own sins, subdue the power of evil in their own souls or in the souls of others, who feel able to sustain themselves under affliction, God leaves to their own resources. But when they feel and acknowledge their weakness, He communicates to them divine strength.” —Charles Hodge
“Remember, it is not your weakness that will get in the way of God’s working through you, but your delusions of strength. His strength is made perfect in our weakness! Point to His strength by being willing to admit your weakness.” —Paul David Tripp
“Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.” —Corrie ten Boom
Also, The Gospel Coalition has a wonderful article by Clarissa Moll about Trading Your Weakness for God’s Strength. Don’t miss it.
Stephanie Anderson is the communications and graphics specialist at Eternal Perspective Ministries.