Thursday, December 15, 2011

Resting with My Shepherd

“And He said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest a while…” Mark 6:31 (KJV) 

Today’s passage is truly one that is very precious and dear to my heart right now.  After many years in full-time Christian service and running full-speed ahead, I feel like Jesus has gently called me “apart into a desert place” to rest a while.  Oh, how sweet!  To be in a desert place…apart from the busyness…alone with Jesus.  I feel like I have finally stopped struggling against that "call apart", and I have yielded to His invitation to fall back into His arms and allow Him to do what He wants to do and allow Him to just hold me.  I don’t know everything that is going on in my spiritual life right now.  I wouldn’t know how to begin to explain it since even I can’t understand it all.  What I DO know is that “the eternal God is my refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27 – KJV), and it is so sweet to trust in Jesus.

I find it deeply comforting to know that Jesus is my Shepherd.  He knows when enough is enough.  He knows when I am completely spent and in need of rest.  And when I don’t have enough foresight to see that I am about to completely burn out, He does.  So, He calls me aside, away from the noise and demands, and He tells me, “Rest, child.  Just rest.”  I could never describe the peace He is giving me in this desert place. 

We have a black and white picture that my niece, Kristen, gave us for Christmas one year.  It is a drawing of Jesus tenderly holding a lamb very close to His heart.  You can see the nail-prints in His hand that is hovering over the little lamb’s head pulling it closer to Him.  The look of gentle compassion on Jesus’ face and in His eyes is just beautiful.  Each time I look at it lately, I feel like I am that lamb.

In today’s passage of Scripture, Jesus was concerned about His disciples.  He was their Shepherd, their Master, their Lord, and He was constantly in tune with what they were feeling and going through.  Both He and they had just suffered a devastating blow.  Do you remember the story?  The mean-spirited Herodias had become enraged when John the Baptist had told her husband, Herod that he should not be with her, because she was married to Herod’s brother.  She was so angry, she wanted to kill John!  She had a score to settle with him, and one day, she got the opportunity.

It was her husband, Herod’s birthday, and he was planning a big supper for his lords, high captains, and the chief estates of Galilee.  During the festivities, Herodias’ daughter came in and danced for Herod and his friends.  Her dancing pleased them so much that Herod made a very reckless promise.  He told her she could have anything she wanted….all the way up to half of his kingdom.  Not knowing what she should ask for, she went and asked her mother.  Seeing her chance, Herodias told her to ask for the head of John the Baptist!  Herod was very sorry to hear this, but he had made an oath in the presence of many witnesses, so he was forced to comply with her horrible request.  Herod immediately sent an executioner to the cell where John the Baptist was in prison, and he brought John’s head on a charger to Herodias’ daughter.  She, in turn, gave it to her mother.

Can you imagine the trauma and devastation this news caused the disciples of Jesus?  John the Baptist had been killed!  And in such a violent, deliberately horrifying manner!  When they got the news, they went to the prison and took John’s body and respectfully gave it a proper burial.  Then they came to Jesus and told Him all that had happened and what they had been through.

He looked at them, and you know, I can just picture the compassion and kindness in His eyes.  On top of the grief they were experiencing, they had been stretched and pulled and sought after to the point of exhaustion.  Verse 31 goes on to say, “…for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.”  Nothing escaped Jesus’ watchful, careful eye.  He loved these men.  They were His faithful, loyal followers, and He cared about their needs.  They weren’t complaining, but Jesus knew it was time to pull them aside.

He saw the tiredness in their eyes.  He knew they needed rest…that they had been pushing themselves too hard….all for the sake of others.  They had been doing, serving, ministering, and pouring themselves out, and He saw the drain and the toll it was taking.  There was so much commotion; they hadn’t even had time to eat.  They needed a time of nourishment, healing, and restoration.

 God knows when we need to rest, and He will do what is best to cause that to happen.  Sometimes we see these “calls” as unnecessary, annoying interruptions of our busy lives and schedules.  We may long to be back out on the active battlefield, when all along, He sees that one more minute out there would be one minute too many.  I read once that life’s disappointments are veiled God’s appointments.  If He pulls us off to the sidelines of activity, it is because He wants to draw us close….to Himself.  He wants to hold us and nurture us and show us His love and tenderness.  We all need that.  None of us are so strong that we can run wide-open full-time with no reprieve and no time to reload. 

I love hearing His sweet call…”Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while…”  Oh, the loving-kindness in those words of our Lord!  I am seeing my “desert” as a quiet resting place.  Isaiah 32:18 (KJV) says, “And My people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places…”  Isn’t that wonderful?  Tucked away from the rush and bustle and stress of this busy world, God has quiet resting places for His people.  Places where He deals with us one-on-one, with no noise or interruption.  Places where He feeds us and applies His healing balm to our wounds and tired, weary hearts.  Places where He mends the brokenness in us, and restores the tattered places in our soul.  

The dearly beloved 23rd chapter of Psalms, describes it so well.  “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:  He leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul.”  Oh, praise His name!  I can hardly see my computer screen to write this because of my tears.  The Lord is MY Shepherd!  Mine. Sometimes, He has to MAKE us lie down, because we are moving too fast.  He wants to lead us beside STILL waters….not fast-moving, rushing streams…but still, peaceful, quiet waters.  Why?  Because He wants to restore our souls. 

He knew I needed restoration long before I realized it.  And His gentle voice began to call me aside to this peaceful place.  In my running, in my quest to do more than I was able, Jesus saw that I was losing my own vitality and vibrancy.  He is now restoring my soul.  I love Joel 2:25.  It says, “And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten…”  He not only restores our souls, but He will restore what satan has taken from us….even years! 

In John 10:27, my gentle Shepherd said these precious words, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”  How about you, my friend?  Do you hear His voice?  Is it calling you to come apart into a desert place and rest a while?  Don’t fight it.  Maybe He is allowing a physical affliction or handicap to get you to slow down.  Maybe He has permitted a hurt to strike deep within your heart to pull you to His arms.  Perhaps your carefully-laid plans have been shattered and rearranged, and you have turned to Him bitterly crying out “Why, God?”  Or maybe He just gave you a gentle nudge and told you to “come aside” with Him into a desert place.

The desert!  It doesn’t sound too inviting, does it?  Dry, barren, wasteland.  No beautiful flowers to gaze upon.  No refreshing wells to drink from.  Nothing living.  But, oh the treasures that await you there!  Time that slows down to a crawl…with nothing else to do but listen to His dear, soothing voice.  Teaching, encouraging, calming, and reassuring that there are better days ahead, but this is a necessary interruption and prerequisite.  Trust His wisdom, my friend.  If He calls you apart, it is because you need it.  Nothing that touches your life escapes His watchful eye.  He sees you, and He always knows what is best.  Get quiet enough to hear His call, and then follow where He leads.

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