Overcoming the Overwhelming: Rest in Jesus – by Greg Albrecht

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.(Matthew 11:28 – NIV). 

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.(Matthew 11:28 – The Message Bible). 

The invitation to rest in Jesus is a call to accept our limitations and cast ourselves at the feet of our Savior who is without limitations and with whom nothing is impossible. 

When we accept the invitation to rest in Jesus, God’s grace mercifully relieves us of the impossible expectations that would require us to fix and solve all problems and suffering and pain. 

When we rest in Jesus, we willingly die (give up, surrender and resign) all requirements, whether internally or externally imposed, that we are the savior of the world.

When we rest in Jesus, we lay down our burdens at his feet – we lay down our sense that we can handle all woes and worries, all torments and troubles. 

When we rest in Jesus, we surrender our addictive obsession with finding meaning in all that we can accomplish and instead we focus on him. With John we say, “Look, the Lamb of God…” (John 1:29). 

When we rest in Jesus, we realize that looking to and following Christ is not a race to find physical or spiritual success via our own achievements, but a daily process to concede and capitulate to him so that the grace of God is sufficient for us as we are renewed in Christ day by day. 

When we rest in Jesus, we discover that the grace of God is not realized through the glory of our achievements but rather received and experienced in the screwed up messes of our lives – God is there in the mud and ditches and quagmires and dung heaps of our inept attempts to fix and earn and deserve. 

When we rest in Jesus, he enables us to overcome the overwhelming reality of our world.

The world is broken beyond our abilities to fix and repair it. The world is an overwhelming place – it always has been – during our lifetimes the intensity of our awareness has increased as non-stop media news cycles bring us horrendous tragedy and images of suffering. 

As Eugene Peterson translates Matthew 11:28 (above) resting in Jesus is offered to those who are “burned out on religion.” Churches can be fatigue factories – they can stress and use and burn out members, parishioners or congregants who help and serve and work and give, only to feel left behind like are like empty plastic bottles and used Kleenexes. 

When we rest in Jesus, we are free in Christ, and anything that threatens to enslave us is an enemy of the gospel and, by definition, sin. That includes bad news religion. 

When success, even in serving Jesus, is understood as more and faster and better, we can run ourselves, or allow ourselves to be run, ragged. We can feel, in the words of that old cowboy idiom, like we have been “rode hard and put away wet.” Ever heard of compassion fatigue?

There is a cost to caring. 

My most recent near brush with a massive melt-down burn-out has been a staggering number of friends, family and loved ones are encountering desperate times in their lives. I am thankful to pray with and for them, but as I do I come to my breaking point. I have to realize I can’t handle all of this and I can’t fix it. That’s way above my paygrade. Jesus can and will. 

This is not to say that we should not grieve and allow our hearts to break with sorrow. This is not to say that Christ followers do not share in the grief, pain and heartache of others and carry it with them. Following Jesus and walking in his footsteps means suffering, and it means helping and caring for others. There is a cost to caring

 But, when we rest in Jesus and serve others in his name, we realize we are not Jesus. We realize that in this mortal body, while we care and sorrow and grieve and pray, we eventually come to the end of our rope. When we have compassion fatigue, are burned out and suffer from post-traumatic spiritual stress syndrome, we find rest in Jesus. 

When we rest in Jesus,we do not grieve like the rest of mankind who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). When we are overwhelmed we find rest and healing in Jesus. Jesus receives our weariness, renewing and strengthening us in his oasis, the Christ-centered ground of our being. Jesus enables you and me to overcome being overwhelmedby bringing us back to our spiritual ground zero. 

“Come to me and I will give you rest.” 

It’s a hard lesson for me to learn. As a type A perfectionist workaholic I am like a moth attracted to a light bulb on a summer’s night. I just can’t give up trying and working harder and running faster thinking it’s far more about me than it is about Jesus. 

Depression is high among those who are seduced by quotas, by those who are enslaved by performance and meritocracy as a way of life. That’s why we Christ-followers must repent of our good works done in the flesh as much as we do our bad works. 

When we rest in Jesus, we know that Christ is risen and that all that we can ever need or desire is given to us, by him and through him, by the grace of God. 

When we rest in Jesus, all of our dog days of depression and compassion fatigue and shame and inadequacy and tilting at windmills and running around on a hamster-like wheel are replaced by the One who brings light and life and light and love into our hearts and souls. 

When we rest in Jesus, we know that all is well, by his grace. We are more than conquerors in Him (Romans 8:37) and through him, we overcome the overwhelming

Allow me to conclude with devotional lyrics from Agnus Dei, a centuries old liturgical prayer of thanksgiving and gratitude based on John 1:29. The lyrics of Agnus Dei have been set to music by many classical composers as well as arranged and covered by contemporary artists pointing us toward Jesus, the Lamb of God, who gives us rest. 

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. 
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. 
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

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