Today is Labor Day in the United States, a day we celebrate the fruits of our labors over this past year and look forward to the work we have ahead. The origin of this day and how it became a holiday are very distant memories from what we have made this day into in our country over the years. In our day and age we feel we labor to the point of exhaustion (and sometimes we do) yet our lives reflect in no way the extreme toil and pressures of people just a few centuries ago. But whether you consider the toils of today or those of yesterdays in history, God also has some truth for us to consider for all time when we look at all the work around us and desire more than anything for an easing of our labors.
Some of my favorite verses in the bible come from Matthew 11. I love how Jesus seeks to console the hearts of those laboring to see God and tells them that they need only to look to Him, join up in His activities, and in doing so He will provide all the rest their hearts are desiring. This rest Jesus is talking about here is not the swinging in the hammock type of rest that we would naturally gravitate our minds towards, but rather an inner peace, a slowing down of ambitions, and a willingness to let Him lead the way in helping our hands and our hearts work in kingdom efficiency and not in endless roundabout worldly toil.
What Jesus asks us to do, with His help, is to do work that amounts to much more than we could ever accomplish in the few hours we are given in our days, our years, and our lifetime – work that He has already planned out in perfect orchestration with everything else He knows is going on around us and will be in our futures.
Have you ever searched for something to no avail, and then threw your hands up in frustration and finally prayed for God to help you, then continued on with what else was needing to get done besides looking for the thing you were searching for only to come upon that very thing in the next one or two activities you had down the line? I have definitely had this type of scenario work out more than once in my life and these episodes have taught me lessons about God's faithfulness to work out even the small things in my life so my labors are all the more streamlined and efficient - that is when I let Him take the lead and put all the control in His hands.
I believe when we rest in God and give all our labors to Him, He desires most of all to accomplish all He can through the lest amount of work each task should entail for us. If we find we are working too hard or laboring too long and not sleeping enough, then life is out of balance from where God would most desire for us to be. We are all called to labor and to be diligent to put our hands to what is before us, but there is an equilibrium that must be maintained if Jesus is to be the focus and mainstay of all our work.
I came upon the poem below this morning and I felt the sentiment of what I have been discussing in the above paragraphs is so well versed by this poet so I have copied it in order to share with you. I hope you see the great continuity this poem weaves between rest, labor, peace, godly service, and living each moment for the glory of the Lord. Today you have a choice to rest on your own or to rest in the Lord. I know the latter will definitely bring you more peace than just putting your feet up for the day. But no matter what type of activity the Lord calls you to do today, His peace and rest will always satisfy your needs in the most perfect of ways and at the same time accomplish more than you could have ever imagined could have been accomplished for the time and effort you needed to put forth.
“Be all at rest, my soul, O blessed secret,
Of the true life that glorifies the Lord:
Not always does the busiest soul best serve Him,
But he that rest upon His faithful Word.
Be all at rest, let not your heart be rippled,
For tiny wavelets mar the image fair,
Which the still pool reflects of heaven's glory -
And thus the image He would have you bear.
Be all at rest, my soul, for rest is service,
To the still heart God does His secrets tell;
Thus will you learn to wait, and watch, and labor,
Strengthened to bear, since Christ in you does dwell.
For what is service but the life of Jesus,
Lived through a vessel of earth's fragile clay,
Loving and giving and poured forth for others,
A living sacrifice from day to day.
Be all at rest, so then you'll be an answer
To those who question, 'Who is God and where?'
For God is rest, and where He dwells is stillness,
And they who dwell in Him, His rest will share.
And what will meet the deep unrest around you,
But the calm peace of God that filled His breast?
For still a living Voice calls to the weary,
From Him who said, 'Come unto Me and rest.'”
Poem my Freda Hanbury Allen