I am going through a study about King David and this morning, I sat down to read the first half of 2 Samuel chapter 7. I couldn’t get past the first verse. I tried but I just kept coming back to it. “Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies…” It stopped me dead in my tracks. Did you catch it? “…rest from all his surrounding enemies…”
Do you need rest today from your surrounding enemies? I sure do. My husband does. My children do. So do my extended family and best friend. We all do. Our enemies are relentless, aren’t they?
I don’t know about you, but this time of year, I find that my enemies are stronger, more persistent, less forgiving. The irony is that during the advent, I somehow believe that my enemies should be more manageable and farther away. After all, my heart is softer, my faith burns strong and bright and my spirit seems lighter as I raise my awareness of the birth of my Savior. But no such luck. As busyness crowds my days and I try desperately to cram as many moments into every hour that I can, my enemies circle, ready to strike.
I’ve also realized that my enemies this season are so much different than those I encounter the rest of the year. Every December, what used to be just a mall becomes a new and nearly impossible battlefield. Merely walking through the doors, I encounter an endless onslaught of foes, ranging from greed and temptation to impatience and discontent. I visit friends’ houses, see their flawless holiday decorations and jealousy silently sidles up to me and whispers in my ear lies about my inadequacy. I hear about Christmas gatherings I wasn’t invited to and a heavy coat of rejection appears comfortably on my shoulders.
I could definitely use rest from all of that.
And those are just the invisible enemies. There is a whole list of adversaries that are so much more visible and difficult to disguise. Divorce, death, financial hardship, depression, wayward children and innumerable other sorrows. Trying to navigate the holidays with such crushing burdens feels like going to war every morning.
In the New Testament, Jesus invites us “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” In both the Old Testament and New Testament verses mentioned here, the word rest has the same meaning: to take ease, to refresh, to cease, to be quiet. Can you imagine what it might be like to truly rest today, tomorrow, this week, this month? To be quiet in the midst of all the noise filling our lives?
Jesus came to give us rest, to refresh us, to quiet our spirits and our hearts.
I have several nativity scenes around my house. Thinking about each one and visualizing all the key players in the scene, not one of them looks frazzled or frightened. Granted, they are figurines and therefore products of human minds and hands. But still, we all take for granted that on that one night, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, they all rested. They ceased their own chaos and they were quiet. Two years later, the wise men left whatever business they were attending to, fled their impending enemy King Herod, and searched for the one who would bring them rest. They chose to pursue the giver of rest at any cost.
Do we pursue rest at any price? Do we intentionally say no to the unceasing string of demands and to-do’s and choose quietness? Do we take time to be refreshed, to take ease? We need to. We desperately need to. Our enemies are numerous and ruthless.
This morning, I am praying for rest from my surrounding enemies. I am requesting the Lord grant me what I so badly need but often forget to ask for. As my husband is away, working to provide for our family, I am praying that he receives rest from his surrounding enemies. As my children walk the halls in their schools, I am praying that they find rest from the enemies who wish to destroy their gentle hearts. I am petitioning for my friends and family as enemies lurk around every corner.
Holy God, give us rest from our surrounding enemies. Help us cease. Refresh us. Deliver us from the daily foes of demand and hardship. Remind us to be a shepherd, to rest from our toiling and visit the manger. Grant us focus like Mary and Joseph and let us be consumed with only you. Rain on us wisdom like the wise men, forethought to cease our daily laboring and vision to see what is most important. As we draw near to the manger, hold our enemies at bay and grant us rest.