Hard Work and Worry

“It is useless for you to work so hard
    from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
    for God gives rest to his loved ones.”
Psalm 127:2 NLT

Another gem from Solomon’s pen. Our capitalistic and materialistic society is based to a large extent on greed, because we are encouraged by our “work ethic” to get better paid jobs, or work longer hours. And by so doing we end up earning more money which we can then spend on more “stuff”. A cynical point of view? Perhaps. But Solomon was pointing out that we sometimes get our priorities wrong, becoming driven by anxiety, just to obtain food to eat. His was a different, poorer, society of course, and food was a basic commodity often in short supply. But we so often, in these modern and enlightened days, hassle along, driven by our own efforts, instead of realigning our priorities to God’s ways. 

Jesus picked up this theme in Matthew 6:25-27, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” On my early morning prayer walk today, just as it was getting light, hundreds of geese flew overhead, silhouetted and just visible against the greyness of an overcast sky. The ragged V’s, the honking and squeaking. A corporate outing of beautiful birds heading for their next feeding grounds. Jesus was right – their Heavenly Father created them to heed His voice about the supply of food. And Jesus brought into His teaching the concept that we have our priorities all wrong. Instead of pursuing the business of our amazing Creator God, enjoying the abundant life that He has provided for us, we worry and hassle after more mundane things, like what we will eat or what we will wear. Jesus said we are “far more valuable” to God than birds so why do we worry? 

God has promised us rest. Hebrews 4 starts, “God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it.” But what is the rest Solomon mentioned, and the writer of the Hebrews epistle alludes to? The rest promised by God to Christians is in two parts – the peace of our relation with God in this life, and eternal life with Him in the life to come. So when we worry we are effectively preferring to trust our own efforts, thereby rejecting God’s offer of rest. 

So we work hard at the tasks God has given us – no place for laziness in His Kingdom – but within the context of experiencing His rest at the same time. Our priorities are clear. And peace descends, flushing away the cares of life.

Shelter

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 
This I declare about the Lord: 
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; 
He is my God, and I trust Him.”
Psalms‬ ‭91:1-2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

What a tremendous Psalm this is. Tradition has it that it was written by Moses, but whoever the writer was, he managed to capture wonderful and encouraging truths, just as relevant for life today as they were all those years ago. The psalm starts off with the idea that God provides shelter for those who want it, for those who live a life in relationship with Him. And in that shelter God’s people will find rest. The Psalmist continues by boldly stating that he will find rest because God will keep him safe from whatever life-issues he is encountering in his journey. And at the end of verse 2, the Psalmist simply states that he trusts God.

We think about these words, “rest”, “refuge”, and “safety”. Somehow our spirits are drawn to the idea of such places because our daily lives can be so frantic that we become frazzled to the point of exhaustion, to a point where we need to get off the merry-go-round of life and take time out. “Stop the world – I want to get off” was a phrase popular a few years ago. Most people plan to take a holiday, the thought of which sustains them in the weeks and months before they go, providing some sort of temporary relief from the stresses and strains of their situation. But when they return, the merry-go-round is still there, as frantic as ever. But God through the Psalmist points out a better way, available in the now, available when needed, available when our spirits crave rest. And after a spell in His shelter, where we enjoy the God-rest we need, we can emerge back into the world refreshed, and able to once again face into our busy lives.

Are we rest-needy people today? Look at the two words describing the place where we can find the rest we need – “shelter” and “shadow”. One tangible, one intangible. In the first case, we can physically take time out, sitting at God’s feet, praying and reading His Word. During a lunch break. First thing in the morning. Whenever we can. Thus recharging our spiritual and emotional batteries. In the second case, we can, in times of stress, look up, and “see” God’s shadow over us, through our memories, through the Words we have read, through our prayers. God has thought of all situations we are likely to meet in our lives. His loving provision is absolute. So join me today, spending time with our Heavenly Father. As the old song says, “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.