1. Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, how full was your schedule? Which description best fits your life pre-coronavirus pandemic: normal amount of activity, busy, or crazy busy?
With the shutdown of sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic, social media is filled with posts from athletes and coaches who are trying to find ways to fill their time. Trick-shot challenges, binge-watching obscure shows, making NCAA-type brackets out of almost any topic… For most athletes and coaches, having this much free time feels strange and perhaps even disconcerting.
Athletes and coaches are usually busy – often crazy busy. Maybe that’s how you would describe your life before the coronavirus hit. Your schedule was always packed with sports, school, job, etc. When all the cancellations because of the coronavirus hit, the idea of extra rest may have sounded appealing to you at first. But now perhaps you’re struggling to rest. Why? It could be that you’re just not used to resting. You’re not used to not being busy.
The trial of having sports largely unavailable to us during this season gives us a unique opportunity to ask questions like this: What’s behind my inclination to always be really busy? What does God say about rest to busy athletes and coaches?
Read Psalm 62 and Matthew 11:25-30
Our schedule may normally be really full because of activities and responsibilities that are all legitimate and good. But as we look closer, we may find that our constant busyness and lack of real rest is the product of something deeper: our struggle to release control and trust God. If we’re not constantly doing something, we worry that things won’t happen – or they will happen in ways we don’t want. Or perhaps our busyness is driven by a striving to earn the favor and love of God and people around us.
One of the themes we find throughout the Bible is that God offers us rest – true and lasting rest. Physical rest is part of this, but it goes deeper. At its core, this rest is experienced through trusting God rather than relying on ourselves. It’s a confidence in God that enables us to cease from the stress of striving and trying to maintain control.
In Psalm 62, the psalmist is facing many enemies. He could have kept constantly busy with trying to find ways to defeat these foes. Instead, he resolves to “wait quietly before God.” He looks to God to make happen what he most needs – and what he can’t make happen on his own: salvation and security (vv. 2, 6-7). Rather than feeling pressure to prove something to God, the psalmist trusts God’s unfailing love and power in his life (vv. 11-12). He releases control and rests in God.
In Matthew 11:25-30, Jesus invites us to come to him for true and lasting rest. We can live with a burdensome busyness that is the product of trying to maintain control of everything. Or maybe we feel like we always need to do more in order to earn the favor of God or someone else. When we trust Jesus with the straightforward faith seen in children (v. 25), he lifts these heavy burdens from our shoulders and offers us life in him that is characterized by a sense of rest at the core of who we are – even when our schedule is full.
2. From what you see in Psalm 62 and Matthew 11:25-30, what would experiencing this true rest look like in your life? What hinders you from experiencing this rest?
Experiencing rest in Jesus doesn’t mean there won’t be seasons of busyness as we engage in sports and the other activities. The difference is that we’re not packing our schedule out of a striving to earn favor or maintain control. Instead, we gratefully embrace the opportunities God gives us to play or coach sports, study, work, build relationships, etc. We can live out a healthy rhythm of intense activity and intentional rest, all while looking to the Lord with confidence that he is in control.
How can you make the most of this chance to learn through the coronavirus trial? One step is to reflect on what’s behind what normally keeps you so busy. If you struggle to release control and trust God, confess this honestly to him. Rest in his love for you that is based not on what you do for him but simply because this is who he is. Rest in the fact that he has promised to give you what you most need when you look to him with faith. Release the stress of striving and trying to maintain control, and receive Jesus’s promise of rest for your soul.
3. Read slowly through Matthew 11:28-30 again, listening to Jesus as he personally invites you to come to him and receive his gift of rest. Pray that you would be able to live out of this deep rest in the days and weeks to come, no matter what your schedule is like.
28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”