I Will Give You Rest
By Fr David Shehata
“In You I will find rest”. Jesus says, “Come to Me all you who labour and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest”. And He continues and says “come to Me… I will teach you and you will learn from Me… My yoke is easy and my burden is light”. These words are very comforting from the Lord, and the reason for this is that it comes from Jesus Himself, one who has authority and the willingness to help. This provides us a lot of comfort and rest. St Apollinaris, one of the early Church Fathers, posed a very profound question saying, “How is it that Jesus sometimes will say ‘my burden is light and my yoke is very easy’, but at other times, He’ll say ‘the path that leads to righteousness is very narrow and very difficult’?” Fortunately, St Apollinaris also answers this dilemma… those people who may be careless in their spiritual life… people who do not prioritise the Lord, or a Christian way of living, walk a very narrow path, one that seems very burdensome and difficult. And yet, for those of us who are zealous and do want to prioritise the Lord and live a Christian life, the task’s and instructions given to us by the Lord become easy and a pleasure to follow… become very light with Him.
Everyone carries a burden, whether it be work or family related. Make no mistake, despite the exclusively happy facades of people we may see on social media, we all have problems that burden us. Yet how is it, that some people walk through these problems, through life, being perfectly ok, while other people are destroyed by these difficulties? Truly, the common thread that runs through the people who get through their problems, and move from success to success, is this element of hope and faith in the Lord. The element of faith in this particular verse. When Jesus says to us, “Come to Me ALL..”, there’s no prerequisites. It’s not only come to Me if you think your worthy, or pray this many hours a day, or only if you come to Church for this amount of time… not at all. “Come to Me ALL, you who are burdened”. There’s a few stories that this reminds me of. One time Fr Thomas Hopko, a really beautiful man, said a story once, of a little girl with her father. Her father had given her a present… a necklace. And she loved it. It was a diamond necklace, fake of course, just made of plastic, but it looked gold… and so she loved this necklace. She thought it was so pretty and beautiful. And her dad used to put her to sleep. One time, as he was putting her to sleep he said to her, “Please give me this necklace” and she refused. So he said, “that’s ok, no worries”. Then the next night he was putting her to bed, and he asked again “can you give me that necklace?”, but she still replied, “no dad, I really love it… I don’t want to part ways with it”. So he said again, “that’s ok”. The third day he asked her and she started crying, she said “you know that I love this necklace, why are you asking me to get rid of it? Why you asking me to give it away? I really love it”. And so he said to her, “Don’t cry, I don’t want you to cry. Just give it to me when your ready, and I have something better for you”. She said, “but there’s nothing that could possibly be better that this”. He replied, “that’s ok, when you’re ready”. This kept going on for days and days and weeks. Until one day, as he was putting her to sleep, he asked, “can I have the necklace?” With tears in her she gave it to him. He said, “why are you crying”, and she responded, “you know why I’m crying, I really love it”. He said, “well maybe you won’t be crying anymore after you see what I have prepared for you”. She still said, “there could be nothing better than this necklace”. So out of his pocket, it was there the whole time, he pulled a jewerelly box. Inside, there was a real gold necklace, the real deal. And he gave it to her and said, “I had this ready for you all along”. In a way, it makes us realise that many times we’re going through burdens and problems, and it feels like we are the ones who need to fix the problem… we are the ones that need to solve it. And I feel, that these are the times we have to let go and tell the Lord, “You are the one who is going to fix this problem, it’s Your burden, not mine”. Fr Thomas Hopko once said that when we’re praying to God, we tell Him, “Lord we are weak, we’re rubbish… but we are Your rubbish. We are weak, but You are the one Who can draw out the strength in our weakness”.