My latest reading is Thomas Wingfold, Curate, by George MacDonald. One of the very first sermons this curate preached after beginning his real search for God was on the text in Matt. 11: 28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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.” (ESV)
We need rest for our souls when we are tired from carrying heavy loads. Cross-cultural workers have a lot of those. We can get exhausted from work, fretting, or disappointments. A heart-deadening load settles on us when someone we love rejects the God we love so much. We compare abundance and abject poverty and wonder how to make sense of it all. Even our spiritual service deadens us when it becomes heartless spiritual activity.
Mike Yaconelli said, “Until a few months ago, I had no idea I’d lost my soul somewhere. In the busyness and clutter of my life, as I traveled all over the world serving God, I thought my soul was just fine, thank you. But my soul wasn’t fine. I spent hours every day doing God’s work, but not one second doing soul work. I was consumed by the external and oblivious to the internal.
“In the darkness of my soul, I was stumbling around and bumping into the symptoms of my soul-lessness– I was busy, superficial, friendless, afraid, and cynical–- but I didn’t know where all these negative parts of my life were coming from.”
We begin to find rest for our souls when we recognize that we really are tired and burdened. That’s what Mike Yaconelli did. Until we admit our need, we will just keep stumbling on and trying to give a drink of cool water out of our empty buckets.
Oswald Chambers wrote in his book So Send I You, “The greatest mistake a servant of God can make is to get swamped out of his relationship with God.” So, no matter what our heavy loads are, Jesus starts by saying, “Come to me.”
The Message translation of verse 11 says, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.” Refreshing, isn’t it?
If we want to come to Him and learn from Him and find rest for our souls, we need what my husband, Mike, calls four Keys to a Quiet Soul.
1. Solitude: When am I alone, but not lonely?
We can waste times alone by feeling sorry for ourselves for being lonely. If we are going to have any solitude, even when alone, it has to be a conscious choice. When I am alone, am I coming to my Friend? For many of us, if we are going to have any solitude for soul refreshing to take place, we must carve out time before the demands of our lives swamp us out of needed rest for our souls.
2. Silence: When am I quiet, but not restless?
“What the soul must do during these seasons of quietness amounts to no more than proceeding gently and noiselessly in prayer. What I mean by noise is running about with the intellect, looking for many words and meanings so as to give thanks for this gift, and piling up one’s sins and faults in order to see that the gift is unmerited. Everything is in motion and rush. The intellect is thinking hard and the memory is hurrying about in the past.
“Therefore, in such times of quietude, let the soul remain in its repose. Put aside learning. The time will come when learning will be useful for the Lord. Believe me, in the presence of infinite Wisdom, a little study of humility and one act of humility is worth all the knowledge of the world. For here there is no demand for reasoning, but simply for knowing what we are and that we are humbly in God’s presence.” - St. Teresa of Avila
3. Scripture: Am I feeding my soul on the word of God? While serving in Nigeria, I took one semester off teaching. I felt soul-starved at a scripture banquet I prepared for others. I needed the words to sink deep in my soul and satisfy my craving. Jeremiah said, “I found your words and ate them and your words became to me the joy and the delight of my heart. . .”(Jeremiah 15:16)
4. Surrender: What am I trying to manage that is too big for me?
This is where we take His yoke and find that it is easy. As long as we are trying on our own to manage a load that is too big, we will be exhausted. But His burden is easy because He is with us. God knows what is the right size load. He knows what we can carry when we do it His way. And He promises to never leave us or forsake us. Here’s Eugene Peterson, in The Message Version, again: “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.” (Matthew 11:29, Message Bible)
So whatever your burden, spend time with The Burden-Lifter, listen to what He says, digest the bread He gives, and copy the way He does it. He promises you will find your soul is rested and the burden is not more than you can bear.
“Father, show me how to get some solitude in my busy, noisy world. Help me learn to quiet my soul and listen for your soft voice. Feed me from the Bread of Life that I will be strong. I surrender my burdens and ask you to teach me to wear your yoke. For Your glory.”