As we begin a New Year, there are many hopes, dreams and expectations in our hearts and minds. I remember when we entered the year 2000 there was global concern (& some expectation) that all electronic and computer-based devices may crash if they were unable to cope with the date change. Thankfully these concerns and expectations were proved wrong. But for many of us and those in our society the New Year brings some level of expectation to re-invent ourselves: a time to diet, to take up some exercise, to declutter our homes or to take up a new skill or activity. I don’t know about you, but I do feel pressure to make a New Year’s resolution that would better myself in some way, but I seldom keep them past Easter! And it’s no wonder that many diets fail, exercise regimes end and gym memberships go unused as a result. When that happens we feel the failure and burden of unfulfilled expectations.
The following verse took me by surprise when God led me to it for this blog. Listen to the words:
28 ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’
If we note the context of these verses, Jesus is addressing a large crowd, and is this message is for all to hear. As I pondered on why God would have me use this verse to highlight weariness and burdens, instead of giving me an uplifting and motivating message to encourage you to have high expectations and resolutions for this New Year, I realised that for myself and many of my friends, the reality is that we are entering a New Year exhausted; mentally, physically, maybe discouraged spiritually, and carrying the emotional and physical baggage of life, and the scars it has left us with. And if we don’t take time to acknowledge these and work out if we even have capacity to add a new resolution onto these burdens and scars, then we can end up adding even more to our burdens by carrying more baggage of guilt, shame or failure as we agree to unachievable expectations that are unsustainable.
God invites us here to come to Him, He knows our hearts and asks us to come just as we are. And in this invitation to ‘come’, God invites us to begin a journey with Him. This Christmas I’ve been reading some of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia adventures with my children. In these and in many other stories of adventure, the adventurers set out on a journey with their own flaws and with very little idea of what it will involve. This is true for us and also for many in the Bible too. Naomi and Ruth begun their journey with the burden of grief and sadness. Mary, when the Angels appeared, was afraid. The woman at the well came to Jesus with her baggage of failed and broken relationships. The Bleeding Woman was an outcast in society. God invites all of us to enter into a journey, an adventure with Him, during this coming year. He knows the burdens and scars that we bring, the baggage that we carry, the capacity that we have, and the gifts, weaknesses, flaws and strengths in our characters too. He knows the context of our journey, and He promises that as we journey with Him, we will learn from Him – what a wonderful promise that is, and we will find rest.
Below is a link to a song which has some wonderful truths for our hearts to sing. Can I encourage you to spend some time absorbing these truths and praying that these truths would keep your heart singing as you journey with God over this coming year. Perhaps pray this for those closest to you, your family, friends and those you minister to.
Questions to consider as we enter a New Year:
- What are some of the hopes, dreams and expectations that you are carrying as you approach the New Year (consider any unspoken or subtle expectations there may be)?
- What are the burdens and baggage that you are carrying into the New Year? What are the things that are causing you weariness and a heavy heart?
- Many of the people in the Bible journey with God with their baggage, scars and weaknesses. Choose a character to explore for example Ruth & Naomi (grief and sadness), Mary (fear), Martha (busyness) and the Woman at the Well (complex relationships).
- God promises that as we journey with Him, He will give us rest. What is your experience of this? How have you seen God help you rest? Do you have any practical suggestions of ways that help you rest in Jesus?