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  • Writer's pictureRalph Felzer

Rest For the Weary

"Landscape with the Fall of Icarus" by Pieter Bruegel, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

"Waybread" is food designed to strengthen travelers on a long journey.  This little weekly column is intended to offer reflections that will strengthen and encourage you in your own long journey in following Christ.


I love the painting at the top of this page.  It's called "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus."  You've heard his story even if you don't remember his name.  Icarus and his father, Daedalus, were being held prisoner in a tower, and their plan to escape involved gathering as many feathers as possible from the birds that flew around the tower.  When they had managed to construct wings for themselves, Daedalus warned his son not to fly too near the sun or the heat would melt the wax holding the feathers together and he'd plummet to his death.  Well, you guessed it, Icarus did fly too close to the sun, and he fell into the sea and drowned.

The painting captures the moment when Icarus hits the water.  You can see his legs in the bottom right corner of the painting.  What's especially striking about the painting, though, is that all of life just … goes on.  No one seems to notice the tragedy that has just unfolded nearby.  The farmer, focused on his work, keeps plowing his field.  The shepherd is gazes into the sky in the opposite direction from Icarus' plight, the nearby ship is carried out to sea, oblivious to the drowning boy.  And another man seems to be pointing at something in the water, but not at Icarus. 

This is the way of life, oftentimes, isn't it?  Pain, discouragement, and the silent suffering of weariness happen to all of us but life just … goes on.  All sorts of loss and tragedy happen to people all the time, but life for most of us just … goes on.  And then tragedy and weariness come knocking on our door and though life seems to stop for us, for the rest of the world, it just seems to … go on.

For most of the world.  While our burden weighs especially on our own hearts, minds, and souls, there are nearly always in our lives other people who are ready, willing, and eager to help shoulder the burden with us.  

There are quite a number of folks at Grace lately who have had more than their share of burdens to carry.  But what an encouragement it has been to see the way the church has rallied around to share the burden.  We can't take all the weight, of course, but we can lighten the load.  We can offer encouragement.  We can prepare a meal or two.  We can offer respite from constant caregiving.  We can just … sit together.  And pray.  And listen.

This is what it means to be the Body of Christ, to be the Church.

It's really the weary I want to focus on this week.  Have you ever gotten up in the morning and your highest aspiration for the day is bedtime?  I've been thinking lately about how many people I know who are weary.  You know what I mean–not just tired, but dog-tired, looking and feeling haggard, knocked out, burned out, and wiped out.  It feels like you can't get a break, like you're going all the time.  You catch yourself thinking, "If I can just get through to tonight," or "Once this day/week/month is over, I'll be fine."  

We all need strength for the journey, don't we?  The burdens of everyday life, of loved ones who are struggling or who have recently passed, of work demands that just don't let up, of other people's expectations of us, of struggling to make ends meet as the bills pile up–you know exactly what I'm talking about.  You're either there right now, or you have been.  We all have.  And yet, even though the weight of these burdens is often not that great, we've just been carrying it for so long that, with no apparent end in sight, we just plain get weary.  It's all "do-able," we're just tired of the non-stop do-ing.

Lots of Scripture verses speak to this, and I'm sure you're familiar with most of them, so let me offer you one you may not know before coming back to one you most certainly will.  In Psalm 81, the psalmist writes:

"Sing aloud to God our strength;   

shout for joy to the God of Jacob.

Raise a song; sound the tambourine,   

the sweet lyre with the harp."  (vv. 1-2)

As we begin every day, this ought to be our posture!  We rejoice in the fact that God is good–our struggles don't alter that one whit.  And then … life happens.

"I hear a voice I had not known:

'I relieved your shoulder of the burden;   

your hands were freed from the basket.

In distress you called, and I rescued you;   

I answered you….'" (vv. 5b-7a) 

God shows up!  "I hear a voice I had not known…."  God speaks, and it's as fresh and new as if we had never heard it before.  And He offers relief from the burden.  Rescue from distress.  And answers in our trouble.

Interestingly, the rest of the psalm speaks to Israel's refusal to accept God's help and guidance.  they refuse to listen to His voice.  "Open wide your mouth, and I will fill it," He says (v. 10).

And then you can hear (can't you?) the yearning in His voice as He cries out, "O that My people would listen to my voice….  Then I would quickly subdue their enemies….  I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you." (vv. 13-14a, 16).

Oh, friend, don't let your burden get in the way of God's sweet nourishment for your soul!  Remember David's encouragement that "Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning" (Ps. 30:5).

I'm also reminded of our need to persevere and not merely resign ourselves to our burden of weariness.  In spite of the load, we need to carry on, even if it feels like we're just going through the motions.  There's real hope that in doing so, we will find God's provision in due time.  In Psalm 126, David pronounces this blessing on those who persevere:  "May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.  Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves" (vv. 5-6).

Let me close with a passage I'm sure you know, but which carries boundless hope for you.  Know in your heart of hearts that Jesus has this very word for you this very day:  “Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest" (Mt. 11:28).

“Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest" Matthew 11:28

There is no need for you to carry your load alone–though you certainly may, if you choose.  Why not, though, listen to God's call (unlike the Israelites in Psalm 81!), and let Him give you rest?  Don't insist on carrying the load yourself.  Let your brothers and sisters in Christ come alongside.  And let the Lord Jesus Christ Himself shoulder your burden with you!

Be encouraged, friend, for God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, who spoke all worlds into being, is both with you and for you.

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