I would like to make Guest Post a monthly feature on my blog written specifically by other Christian Women in my life – from the young and learning the the wise and older. I might come knocking at your door, so be warned.
My first guest blogger is Deanna Brown. Deanna is the author of Strokeman’s Woman. There she shares with you the heartbreaking but ultimately encouraging story of her husband’s stroke. She also posts reviews of books and shares stories of her life both in Africa and here in Texas.
I have known Deanna since I was about 15. God has used her regularly in my life to guide, direct, and encourage me. She has been a wonderful wise, older woman to me. Over the last few years, our friendship has evened out a little. It has gone from child and adult, to adult and adult. Thankfully, she will always remain a few steps ahead of me, and I will always stay a few steps behind gaining from walk with the Lord. Please enjoy Deanna’s thoughts on rest – both it’s physical and spiritual sides – and visit her blog if you’d like to get to know her better.
I am not a person who has trouble sleeping. If left to myself, it is a rare night that I don’t fall asleep
minutes after my head hits the pillow. Even if I wake up to stumble to the bathroom, if left to myself, I
will fall right back to sleep, no problem. If left to myself: There’s the rub. Since I became a wife and a
mother, there have been many, many nights when I have not been left to myself. There were the
nights up with crying infants, the occasional stomach flu that had me cleaning vomit out of the tub (“I
was afraid I would miss the toilet”), or off the wall in the hallway (I just couldn’t make it!). There were
the endless nights tending to my chronically ill child, trying to find some way to bring her comfort
while also trying not to kill her for keeping me from sleeping. And then there was the stroke that took
my husband’s independence, and my luxurious, uninterrupted sleep. This week, said husband had
a kidney stone. While I was happy to see him ask for showers (not something he does much these
days), I wasn’t so happy that he was asking for them at 3:00 AM. And while I was thrilled to see him
getting up and walking around so frequently, I wasn’t so happy to be getting up myself to help him
back in the bed every thirty minutes through the very long night. I am not so good without sleep. I get
angry and irritable, and I can be pretty snippy, even to a man in excruciating pain. Because of these
things in my life that often keep me from being able to indulge in my ability to sleep, I have come to
love a very dark room with no noise, cool enough to snuggle under a blanket pulled all the way up
to my neck. When I find myself there, I revel in it by saying over and over to myself, “it’s dark and
quiet”. I usually get to repeat it about three times before I am off to Dreamland.
Perhaps the fact that I often get interrupted from my sleep is what makes me love that God sees rest
as a very important part of His universe. In the very beginning, when the triune God created the
world, He rested on the 7th day. Now for God, it wasn’t a matter of needing a good nap. We are told
in the Psalms that our Father neither slumbers nor sleeps. It was, I think for two main reasons. One,
He was setting up an example for His people; six days you shall labor, but the seventh is the day of
rest: work hard, but then rest, rejuvenate, renew your spirit. The second part of that has to do with
taking time to acknowledge the goodness of our God. He rested, because the work He had set out
to do was done, and it was very good. Our day of rest, our Sabbath, is to be a time of coming
together to proclaim corporately the goodness of God, and all that He has done both in us and
through us. Rest is good!
There is another part of the creation story that has recently appealed to me. It’s the phrase, “So the
evening and the morning were the first (second, third, etc) day.” Now, we tend to think of our days as
starting in the morning and ending in the evening, but that is not how the creation story is told. I
recently read or heard someone relate this to the idea of darkness coming before light – you know,
the concept of weeping enduring for the night, but joy coming in the morning. Meh! Maybe…But I
like to think of it this way – we actually start our day by resting. We rest, then we get up and work.
Kind of neat, isn’t it? I realize this is a cyclical thing: rest, work, rest, work, so which comes first really
isn’t the issue. It is an undeniable fact, though, that rest is very important to the workings of this
One of my favorite parts of Handel’s Messiah is the part in which the alto soloist sings the beautiful
air based on Isaiah 40:11, followed by the soprano air based on Matthew 11:28, 29, completed with
the choir singing a chorus based on Matthew 11: 30.
In the alto air we are reminded that not only does our Great Shepherd tell us rest is important, He
provides it for us. “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: and he shall gather the lambs with his
arm, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” It reminds me of
Psalm 23 where we learn that He leads us to green pastures and still waters and then He restores
our souls. The music that Handel composed for this solo speaks to me of rescue, of a protector and
nurturer in times of difficulty and weariness. It is gentle, and a bit haunting. It brings to mind a poor
little sheep that has been stumbling along the path for a long time, weary and worn and hungry, and
the shepherd appears beside him in his time of need. “Come”, the Shepherd says, “are you weary?
Let me gather you in my arms. Rest on my shoulder.” It is a picture of one who loves mercifully the
weak, dumb creatures He has called His own. He gently leads us when we have young. He
provides for our needs – both physically and, more importantly, spiritually. Sometimes I have related
to the lamb who needs to be carried, and sometimes to the one with young who needs to be led.
Either way, here we are presented with a picture of to whom it is we are to look for rest. His
character is laid out for us as a gentle shepherd who provides all his Sheep could ask for in the way
of sustenance and rest.
Having presented such a beautiful picture of our Savior, Handel takes us to Matthew 11. The
soprano, in the same hauntingly beautiful style sings of the invitation given there, “Come unto him,
all ye that labour and are heavy laden , and he shall give you rest. Take his yoke upon you, and
learn of him; for he is meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Come. Come!
Bring your burdens to Christ, and He will give you rest. This rest spoken of here; it isn’t a good
night’s sleep that will only last for a day, and then will need to be replenished. This is the rest that is
given to one who labors under the burden of sin. This is the one who belongs to the cruel taskmaster,
Satan. His heart is ever full of evil, and there is no hope, until now the King comes with
power to invite this slave of sin to be under His authority. He tells us that His yoke is easy, and His
burden light. He offers us true rest – rest for our souls. His authority is one in which we are spurred
on not by the whip, but by His kindness. We obey, not from fear of punishment (because Christ has
taken that on Himself), but from a heart full of gratitude for His tender mercies towards us. We learn
from Him the joy of salvation, and the peace beyond understanding. We learn while we may lose
sleep, and comfort in this life, even perhaps our very lives, there is none that can pluck our souls
from His hand.
What a beautiful picture Handel paints with these two airs from Old and New Testament passages
each exhibiting for us the kind and gentle Savior we have who draws us to Himself to give us a rest
that is not bound by the laws of this universe in which we dwell. It is an eternal rest that was
accomplished by Jesus on the cross where He bore the wrath of God for our sins that we might bear
His righteousness. The composition is one that reflects the beauty of that rest as we enter into it.
One can almost imagine being led by those still waters in the green pastures. And our hearts can
feel the soul-rest in the ethereal voice of the soloist. Deep breath.
Suddenly the tempo changes and the choir begins to sing with a lively beat, “His yoke is easy and
his burden is light!” Each vocal part of the choir echoes the others almost in a round, as if they are
dancing around telling each other the great news. Christ invites us to come to Him with the promise
of an easy yoke and light burden. But when we come, we cannot fully comprehend the gloriousness
of that great gift until we taste the liberty that is ours, and we behold what manner of love it is that we
are called children of the Father. Then we can’t help but sing out, “His yoke is EASY! His burden is
LIGHT!” And there is great rejoicing.
And so I take comfort. I may never have a time in this life when a good night’s rest will be a given.
There may always be someone or something that will not allow me to be left to myself. But praise be
to God, I have found rest for my soul. And I can rejoice in knowing that His yoke is easy and His
burden is light.
I am Jesus’ little lamb,
Ever glad of heart I am;
For my Shepherd gently guides me,
Knows my need, and well provides me,
Loves me every day the same,
Even calls me by my name.
Day by day, at home, away,
Jesus is my staff and stay.
When I hunger, Jesus feeds me,
Into pleasant pastures leads me;
When I thirst, he bids me go
Where the quiet waters flow.
Who so happy as I am,
Even now the Shepherd’s lamb?
And when my short life is ended,
By his angel host attended,
He shall fold me to his breast,
There within his arms to rest.