‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest’ - Matthew 11:28
I’m writing this blog while preparing to go on holiday to Devon, which feels appropriate in many ways. For many people, holidays are a chance to rest and relax, to leave behind the stresses of everyday life, study and work. I won’t be able to leave my ‘heavy burdens’ behind, as where I go, they go – as many people reading this will be aware, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour last year. This happened while on a family holiday to Italy – it didn’t exactly make for the restful or relaxing occasion we had planned!
Before becoming unwell, I was doing a PhD, which I’ve recently started trying to continue. I was putting all my self-worth into academia; getting accepted to conferences, or an article being published, or positive feedback from my supervisors became the most important thing to me – going from that to not being able to work was difficult, to say the least. But this isn’t how we need to define ourselves. This time of year can be really difficult for that as graduations occur and lots of people are celebrating results. Social media is full of happy family photos, with proud parents and jubilant graduates, but Jesus points to another way. We can take these expectations and the things we put our self worth in to him, and instead define ourselves as who we are in God.
‘Getting away from it all’ is often very necessary, and I’m really looking forward to my holiday this year – but ‘rest’ in the context of this verse doesn’t necessarily mean a solution to our problems, or that they will be waved away if we ‘pray hard enough’. Often, our heavy burdens are still there, whether that’s illness, negative relationships, grief or anything else. Rest can renew us, and time spent focused on God reminds us that God is with us, walking (or, in my case, in a wheelchair!) alongside us, even at those times we fail to recognise this presence.
I’m reminded here of the line in Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love; “If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.” Even when burdened, God says to us, as God said to Julian, ‘I will be with you, always’.