I remember hearing from an older and wiser pastor not many years ago that his devotional life wasn’t what it should have been until he and his wife experienced a major life crisis together. He didn’t provide a lot of detail on the nature of the crisis or what the anxiety and stress of that moment looked like. And that’s OK. The simple take away was that the emptiness and powerlessness that he and his wife experienced in that crisis drove them both to a more intentional devotional life that has been a blessing for them both, ever since. Time taken away from the distractions of the world to rest—physically, emotionally, and spiritually—may at times seem like time wasted. We have responsibilities in life. There is so much that needs to be done. But we all know that if our work is going to remain meaningful…if we are going to be a blessing to others we need to care for ourselves first. The comfort that our God gives us when we attend to the natural rhythm of our bodies and the craving of our souls for His life-giving Word enables us to thrive…even in the most challenging of circumstances.
The image from our Old Testament Reading this week is of a nursing baby. Babies are helpless. Babies need food that is just for them so that they can be nourished and grow. Babies need the attention and love of their parents so that their fears are relieved and their easily-distracted good humor is restored. And so the prophet Isaiah uses the image of a nursing baby that is carried by his mother and bounced on his mother’s knee as an image of God’s love for his easily frightened, stressed out, and hungry people (you can read the verse by clicking here): “Thus says the Lord:…’As one whom is mother comforts, so I will comfort you’” (66:12-13). The baby who is adequately fed, loved, and played with….the baby who is comforted in her time of need…will flourish and grow. In a similar vein, people who look to their own physical, emotional, and spiritual needs for rest will be revived by God. They will be taught again and again that theirs is a God who is merciful and gracious, abounding in steadfast love. They will encounter Jesus just when they need Him! And they will return to the work of their day with renewed vigor.
Work is not evil. Vocation can even bring added meaning and zest for life. But we are so much more than what our resumes say about us. We are much, much more than what we are able to accomplish or produce on our “good” days.
All doesn’t depend on us. It depends on our comforting God! Getting the sleep we need, tending our souls with weekly Sabbath rest, we work hard and we play hard. Let’s take a time out from the rigors and stresses of our day and week, even when it doesn’t feel like we “need” it. God will feed, nourish, and comfort us so that we might grow and thrive.