Worn. Not only is it a great song by the group “Tenth Avenue North,” but it’s a simple 1-word description of how we feel after we’ve pushed ourselves too hard for too long. If I look back on my life over the last ten days, it’s not much more than an exhausting blur. Last Tuesday Mary Alice stayed home sick from school, so I took care of her during the day and worked late at night. Wednesday was spent finishing what I had planned for Tuesday, as well as Wednesday. Thursday was normal, Friday the stomach flu, Saturday still recovering while writing the sermon that I had intended to write on Friday. Thank the Lord that He saw fit to send bad weather on Sunday and provide a day of literal rest for me, school cancelled on Monday and Kerrie woke up with the stomach flu, thus my day was spent taking care of the children so Kerrie could rest, thus no time to work. Tuesday Ben was home sick with a fever, Tuesday night was a trip to the emergency room because the fever wasn’t coming down, he was lethargic, and his lips were looking a little blue; Wednesday involved a run to Belle Plaine to visit a dying child of God, plus getting all the work done I had initially planned for Tuesday and Wednesday. Today’s Thursday, Ben is still home with a fever that looks to have just about run it’s course, and chances are the bulk of any work I’ll do today will be reserved for his nap time and later tonight. Needless to say, I’m worn. Now don’t take this the wrong way, I’m not complaining, I’m learning through prayer and devotion to see such situations not as burdens but as blessings, and I thank God and rejoice in the strength He’s so generously and graciously provided to carry me through it all.
What I am doing here is illustrating a point: the human body is much like a machine, push it too hard without providing any maintenance and something is bound to give out. Ask any of the athletes competing in the Winter Olympics and they will assure you that the necessity of bodily rest to insure adequate performance is absolute, and our bodies will often tell us when we’re pushing them too hard. If we ignore the warning signs, whether those signs are fatigue, pain, cardiovascular irregularities, or any number of symptoms, the consequences can be significant. The body needs its rest, and it is absolutely necessary for physical health.
But how do you know when your soul is worn, when your spiritual health has become stretched dangerously thin? There aren’t any physical symptoms to warn us when we’re depriving our souls adequate rest and in danger of real, spiritual illness. St. Paul tells us that we’re daily surrounded by an atmosphere that can make a soul worn: “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12) Our souls need rest if we’re to make it through the battle that rages all around us, which is why Paul concludes, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day.” (Eph. 6:13)
Ironically, the “whole armor of God” is also a means of rest for our souls. To summarize what Paul says of this armor, it is the truth and righteousness of God; it is the Gospel of peace; it is faith and salvation; it is the Holy Spirit, working in and with God’s Word. Those very things that prepare us for battle and defend us against the evil one are the same things through which our soul finds rest. There is also a specific place where we can, in one place, receive all these blessings: in our worship. When we gather together as children of God in His holy house, there is a very special rest that our souls receive. It is in worship that we are able to unload the baggage of our souls, the sins that weigh us down, and in exchange receive forgiveness. It is in worship where we are fed with God’s Word, with the Sacrament of the Altar, and our spirits are lifted as we sing our praises to our Savior and lay our burdens at the foot of His cross. Sure, I understand that there are often circumstances in people’s lives that make it difficult or impossible to be in worship on Sunday mornings, but when the opportunity is available to you, take it! There is no substitute that can compare to the quality of rest that you receive in your soul than that which is to be found in the House of the Lord!
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:28-39)