I’ve never really been a fan of January. Something about the letdown after Christmas, my clothes not fitting, our bank account gasping, pine needles lingering—oh, and then there are the kids. Lord, bless them, but every single year they pull out all the stops after Christmas, and I’m left wondering where my husband has gone wrong in raising them.
And who doesn’t struggle with all the New Year’s resolutions articles floating around on how to “be better” in 2018? Believe you me, I’ve read them all (meanwhile implementing nothing): everything from ways to eat better, parent better, sleep better, have a better marriage, organize the house, financially plan more effectively, get closer to God, read through the Bible, and even brew your own beer in 2018. (Pardon the beer randomness, but I got overwhelmed with my inadequacies at some point and started reading just about anything.)
I think we all want to start the new year fresh and implement some changes as we assess where we’ve been and where we are going. That’s a good thing. But if we are not careful, while we’re charting all the ways we can do more, be better, and accomplish more, we may miss that still, quiet voice telling us his plan is better.
As I sat down to write the first blog of 2018 for Christian Parenting, I wondered what God’s word might be for us. I knew I couldn’t take one more utterance on resolutions and how to do better in 2018. Interestingly, I kept coming back to the word rest. Really, Lord, rest? I mean, honestly, that seems a little out of touch this time of year when everyone is telling us to do more, do it better, and seize the day while we still have it. But his word speaks of rest, so let’s dig deeper.
Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Isaiah 30:15: “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’”
Jeremiah 6:16: “Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.’”
Rest can be defined as freedom from work, toil, strain, or activity. The antonyms of rest include restlessness, strain, toil, drudge, and grind. What a coincidence! Those are all the words I associate with January!
Again, kidding. Not really.
The Jeremiah verse above instructs us to find the “good way” and walk in it. That’s how we find “rest for our souls.” What is the “good way” for each of us, and where should we continue to strive and achieve versus the areas we need just to let it go (and rest)? Or, as parents, how do we practically find rest when we are constantly juggling the demands of family, careers, marriage, ministry, and everything else?
I recently heard Anne Graham Lotz speak, and something she said resonated with me. She said that as we consider all the demands on us, we are to simply be faithful in our highest place of influence and trust God will use our obedience to change the world around us.
In explaining what it looks like to be faithful in these areas, she said if your highest place of influence is at home as a mom, then show your family and the world what Jesus would look like if he were a mom. If your days are spent at the courthouse, show the world what Jesus would have looked like if he were a lawyer. If your highest place of influence is in the classroom, then show everyone what Jesus would look like if he were a teacher. The Lord has placed each of us in a specific place or sphere of influence, and our job is to be absolutely faithful in that arena and let the Lord work from there.
Instead, we often fall into the trap of trying to be everything to everyone, resolving to be better at one thing while taking on the next. That’s exhausting, and the Bible instead gives us a message of rest. We are to give our burdens to him, the creator and sustainer. In his earthly ministry, Jesus undoubtedly had countless opportunities to do more, try harder, work longer, and be all things to all people. Yet even Jesus, who knew his time was limited, knew his lane. And what do we see over and over in the New Testament accounts? Jesus retreated, spent time with the Father, and observed the Sabbath (times of rest). He knew his unique ministry and was faithful in that area. This allowed him to rest from everything else.
Let’s take time to assess where our highest place of influence lies and be faithful in that area. In other words, let’s do what we are called to do and do it well. Practically speaking, if you have kids at home, that’s likely one of your places of influence, if not your highest place of influence. So let’s be faithful in parenting as Jesus would have us parent. We don’t have to be the best social coordinators, tutors, sports agents, and fashion consultants for our kids. We need to show the world what Jesus would look like if he were a parent. Teach our kids what is right (Deuteronomy 11:19), discipline when appropriate (Proverbs 29:17), and model our faith well for them (Titus 2:7).
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed this year as you try to keep all the balls in the air, wondering if you’re successful at anything when you so often feel like you’re falling short in everything. Listen to the message of rest. Remind yourself of the place where the Lord has planted you and vow to be faithful in living it well for him. Someone else’s calling is not your worry. Instead, let’s be focused and faithful in the lanes the Lord has given each of us. You will find rest in 2018 when you know you are in the exact place the Lord wants you to be and you are living it well and faithful according to his design. May we each find true rest this year.