United States Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black helps us find peace even in the pandemic through the Word of God.
In the light of the global health crisis, caused by the Coronavirus, I found myself questioning the truth of a Bible verse. I was preparing a prayer to pray when the United States Senate convenes, attempting to intercede out of the overflow of my devotional life. I began reading the fifty-fifth Psalm to get my ethical juices flowing, and the twenty-second verse stopped me. It states, “Cast your burdens upon the Lord and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”
As I read this verse, I paused for silent reflection. I thought, “Really, Lord, is it really that simple? If I give you my burdens of fear, cynicism, anxiety, grief, and despair, You will not permit me to be moved?” The promise seemed too exceptional to believe.
I began to play the devil’s advocate, my thoughts spinning like a planet. I continued thinking. “Lord, what about Job? Wasn’t he moved? What about Elijah in 1 Kings 19? He sounded suicidal when he asked you to take his life.” I went down the list of people who seemed to be moved, even though they cast their burdens upon the Lord: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses. The list went on and on. The patriarchs and prophets seem to promenade past me on my mental screen in a solemn precession. Casting burdens and not being moved, does that really make sense? Is it really possible to find rest for your stress?
Casting May Be The Easier Part
I understood the part about casting your burdens on God. First Peter 5:7 reminds us that we should do so because Jesus truly cares for us. The verse states, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” We have a savior who has promised to always be with us (Matthew 28:20). He cares for us more than we care for ourselves. He demonstrated His love by coming to die for our salvation.
We see the caring of Jesus in the story of the feeding of the 5,000 in John 6. It was He who said to Philip, “Where are we going to find bread to feed these people?” While Philip was calculating, and eventually suggesting to Jesus that the task was too great, John 6:6 reminds us that Jesus was only testing Philip. Jesus already knew what He was going to do. He cared so much for this audience who was so spiritually hungry, they listened to him for hours, that He was concerned that they would faint along the way as the journeyed home. We can find rest from our stress because of this caring savior, who invites us to bring our burdens to Him.
Listen to His words in Matthew 11:28-29, “‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’” This easy yoke refers to a well-fitting one. It is not a yoke that is too large or small. This yoke also causes us to think about submission. For the oxen must submit in order for the yoke to be placed properly. This is the caring Christ who invites us to come to Him when we are burdened with life’s challenges.
As I continued to understand the second part of Psalm 55:22: “He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved,” I had a different challenge. If Jesus cares so much for us, why are we often moved to despair by our trials and tribulations? I turned again to 1 Peter 5, but this time I read verses 6-11:
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.”
From this powerful passage, I finally saw more clearly how we can find rest for our stress.
A key to finding rest for your stress is to stay humble before God. We need to be humble enough to appreciate that we cannot carry our burdens by ourselves. This humility also suggests a reverential awe for God. It means we have had the epiphany that He is God, and we are not.
Humility That Trusts
We see this reverential humility in Matthew 8 when a centurion came to Jesus with a burden. The centurion’s servant was gravely ill. He asked Jesus to heal his servant, and the master responded: “I will go to your home.”
The centurion responded with these words in Matthew 8:8, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.”
Jesus was astonished by this soldier’s humility. He said, “I have not found faith like this not even in Israel. “ That is the kind of reverential humility, which enables us to never be moved. It means that though we have challenges in time, we will still triumph in eternity.
We see this humility before God in the story of another man recorded in Mark 9. This man came to Jesus’ disciples with a burden. His son was demon possessed. When the disciples were unable to heal the boy, the man appealed to Jesus: “If you can do something, please help me.”
Jesus almost seemed offended. He said, “What do you mean if I can do something?” The man quickly responded with exemplary humility, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
Do you have that kind of humility before God that you believe He can do more than you can ask or imagine? Are you willing to admit to God that there is often unbelief blended with your faith? Being humbly transparent before God and staying humble in his presence, is a key to finding rest from your stress.
Are you willing to admit to God that there is often unbelief blended with your faith?
The next step to finding rest for your stress is to discover serenity in God. First Peter 5 calls this casting all our anxieties on Jesus. The apostle Paul was in a prison at Philippi. He wrote to the believers in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned in whatever state I am in to experience contentment.”
The apostle Paul continued in verse thirteen, I am ready for anything because of Christ who strengthens me. Wow! What amazing serenity this great apostle possessed. He could find serenity in Christ even behind prison bars.
In Philippians 4:6-7 he describes to us a strategy for finding this rest for our stress:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
What a straightforward strategy. If we subdue our anxiety by taking everything to God in prayer, with thanksgiving and specific requests, God has promised that His peace will guard our hearts. Perhaps this was the peace that Jesus spoke about in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
The final step to finding rest for your stress is to guard against temptation. First Peter 5:8 reminds us that we have a predatory adversary, seeking to devour us. We are warned that we must be prepared to do battle with this enemy.
This is not the first time that the Bible reminds us of the criticality of guarding against temptation. Matthew 26:41 provides this warning, “‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’” To some extent, this guarding against temptation is the reminder of the wisdom in James 2:26, “Faith without works is dead.”
How watchful are you? Many years ago there was a television program called Different Strokes. It had the unlikely plot of a multimillionaire who adopted two inner city, African American kids named Arnold and Willis. Willis often sought Arnold, the younger child, to join him in deviating from the path of integrity. Arnold kept his guard up and would respond to Willis’ overtures with these words, “What you talkin’ ‘bout Willis?!” Arnold had his guard up against temptation in the same way we should if we are going to find rest in our stress.
The Best Rest
Thank God I have a Savior who enables me to find rest from my stress. If I stay humble before Him, discovering that He is the secret to my serenity, and guard against temptation, I will discover that I can indeed cast my burdens upon a caring Christ who will not permit me to be ultimately defeated.