My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains. They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their own resting place. (Jeremiah 50:6)
There’s something so significant about rest. That’s something I’ve been learning the past couple weeks. Day after day, I’m wearing myself thin. There’s just so many things I want to do and so many people I want to see! Even when I tell myself to take a break and just spend the day relaxing, I find a reason to leave the house or work longer or stay out later than I need to.
Yesterday morning, as I was reading through Jeremiah 50, I came to this verse in which the Lord is referring to the Israelites as lost sheep because they “forgot their own resting place”. I, too, had forgotten my resting place.
I kept believing that staying busy is healthy and needed, when really I just needed to run to the Lord FIRST. If I had, I’m sure I would’ve made better decisions, such as actually getting into bed at a decent hour or maybe saying no to a few commitments I didn’t need to make. And even when I had no choice but to be busy, I still should’ve knelt at the feet of the giver of peace. He does provide exactly what we need to get through our hectic and stress-filled lives. The problem is, I wasn’t letting Him. I had forgotten where true rest comes from and how vital that rest truly is!
For the next week, I will finally have the chance to rest and relax- on the beach in Florida! I’m so thankful that God has given me an opportunity to take a vacation in such a beautiful place. No work, no stress, nobody driving me nuts- it sounds like a dream come true right now. But if I get back from my vacation and then end up doing the same things I was doing before, what good is it? If I know I need rest, A LOT more of it, and God is a provider of that rest… well, then I got a few things to change!
And if you’re feeling the same way I am, knowing that you’re being worn thin and all your efforts to relax and wind down have been pretty futile, perhaps you need to make a few changes yourself. And the first change I suggest for both you and I is running straight into the arms of our Father who never leads us astray and causes us to wander aimlessly. We find rest, peace, and joy in His presence. That’s the only place we really need to be.
If you have a busy schedule, fine. If you have a lot of things to do and a lot of people to see, that’s okay. But don’t think you can get through it alone. You need a Shepherd looking out for you. Don’t forget your resting place.
“We are never so vulnerable as when we love.”
I love this quote. The thing that I’ve been struggling with the most lately is the thought of being vulnerable while loving people and serving God, which I desire to do above all else.
There are two pressing arguments in my head that I cannot avoid. On one side is the argument that I must love people to the best of my ability even though there is the possibility of getting hurt, rejected, or persecuted. On the other side is the argument that I must not love at all so I avoid rejection and hurt, though I’d probably end up disappointing myself and God in the process. Either I can put myself out there and be hurt by others or I can keep to myself and also hurt myself.
The prophet Jeremiah experienced this sort of pain. Even though God warned him that he would be persecuted and hated by the Israelites while delivering God’s message to them, He still felt the weight of their rejection and the sorrow from seeing them in bondage because of sin.
“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty… I sat alone because your hand was on me and you had filled me with indignation. Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable?” (Jeremiah 15:16-18)
Despite the acknowledgment of this unbearable pain he was experiencing through his obedience to God, he still continued living out his calling. Why? Because God was with him every step of the way. After Jeremiah’s lament, God responds.
“If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me… I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you.” (Jeremiah 15:19, 20)
God knew the Israelites would fight against Jeremiah and reject his message. Did this change God’s desire for Jeremiah to obey? No. The sorrow that Jeremiah felt because of the Israelites’ sin was nothing compared to the sorrow God felt, and it was this sorrow that drove God to continue pursuing His people.
One thing we must remember is that the pain we experience through living out our calling and loving people in this world is nothing compared to the pain God has experienced through His love. This pain ultimately occurred on the cross. Even as Jesus foresaw this suffering and prayed for His Father to take the cup away, the cup of God’s wrath that would be poured out on Him as He died on the cross for all of mankind’s sin, He still knew what he had to do.
And I know what I have to do. I have to continue obeying by loving, even if such love causes tremendous pain.
We are going to face hurt and suffering in this world, both in our lives and from watching the lives of those around us. Turning our backs to protect ourselves only prevents us from glorifying God to the utmost and transforming into His Son who loved more than we ever could through selflessness, sacrifice, and suffering.
Pain is involved in loving, and that’s expected. So is joy. And purpose. And hope.
I know I still won’t be as bold in love as I should be, but I also know I don’t want to let my life go by without completing the calling God has put on my life to love His people. Because of that, I want to choose to love when I can and allow myself to receive forgiveness for the opportunities to love that I miss.
Will I be perfect at loving others? No. And that’s okay. Jesus is the only perfect lover, and we are simply given the gift of experiencing His love and giving out His love. Love is a gift from God, and you can’t mess that up, even when vulnerability is involved.
It’s true that we are never so vulnerable as when we love, and that’s what makes love all the more daring and beautiful.
Have I been a desert to Israel or a land of great darkness? Why do my people say, ‘We are free to roam; we will come to you no more’? Does a young woman forget her jewelry, a bride her wedding ornaments? Yet my people have forgotten me, days without number. (Jeremiah 2:31-32)
There is so much freedom found in the Lord and the love of Christ. Because of His blood shed on the cross, we are saved from our sin and the penalty of death. Because of His guidance and presence in our lives, we are never forced to face this life alone. We are showered with blessings, friends, family, and reasons for joy.
But at the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves one very important question: how are we using this freedom?
In his letter to the church of Corinth, Paul addresses this freedom that is given to believers.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say— but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”— but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others… So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:23-24,31)
I hear a lot of people say that because they are saved, they can do whatever they want. Yes… and no. It is true that believers have forgiveness of their sins and God’s grace is unending for those who repent. However, if true repentance means turning from our sins, how valid is our repentance if we continue to turn back? This is not to discredit the faith of those who are in bondage to sin. Rather, I’m referring to those who knowingly turn their back on Jesus and His teachings to pursue their own interests.
I think maybe the thing that hasn’t clicked in the minds of those people who continue chasing after things of this world is the concept of the freedom we truly have. This seems to be nonsensical because such people often use the idea of their unlimited freedom to argue for their sin, hence they appear to have a full awareness of this freedom.
But do they really? Because if they fully knew and understood this freedom given to them, why would they even want to live in sin any longer?
I believe that what Paul was really trying to say to the church in Corinth is “Yes, you do have the right to do anything you want. We are saved under the new covenant of Christ. But there is so much more to it than that. We are so free that we’re not even subject to this world. We don’t belong to this world. Our sole purpose here on earth is to glorify God- whether we’re eating or drinking or talking to friends or watching TV or reading a book. The point is that anything of this world holds us back- that’s why it’s not beneficial. We have a whole eternity of perfection and fellowship with Christ to look forward to. We’re so free from this world, surely we must act differently.”
My challenge for you is to rethink how you are using your freedom. Are you taking advantage of it to pursue your own selfish desires or are you using it to pursue the kingdom to which we are called?
I chose to begin this post with those two verses from Jeremiah to emphasize also who this freedom is for. Yes, it is for us, but it also serves to give us a relationship with God in which we can adorn ourselves with His grace and glorify His name.
Like the Israelites, we can argue that because of our freedom, there’s no reason to live solely for God. However, it actually is the opposite. Because of our freedom, we have EVERY reason to live solely for God.
And this freedom is a marvelous and beautiful thing.