We typically think of resting and recharging as getting away or going on vacation. I’m the CEO of an organization that focuses its events around retreats, so I hear exhales of relief all the time. One of my favorite examples is an African-American woman from the Atlanta area who attended one of our Legacy Retreats® in New York City. She had never even been on an airplane. At one point, her volunteer, a burly man in his twenties, was pushing her in a wheelchair through Times Square. It started to rain and he thought, “This is a disaster.” At precisely that moment, this terminally ill woman looked back at him and said, “This is the best day of my life.” I love being able to provide the best day of people’s lives even when they are facing death.
There is definitely a place for getting away, for retreating, to rest and recharge. Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days to pray at the beginning of his ministry. In fact, the book of Mark highlights nine instances when Jesus retreated. But what I want to talk about today is re-creating.
Should we be able to rest and recharge in our daily lives? What do we do when we can’t retreat? Is it possible for us to be re-created every day? I believe it is, and I think that is what God desires for us.
Matthew 11:28-30 – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Take my yoke upon you… I don’t know about you, but that sounds like work to me. How can that be restful? That’s the question I want to explore.
My story is that my wife was diagnosed with a rare terminal illness when our three children were all under 5. Through my wife's illness, God led us to start a ministry called Inheritance of Hope to inspire hope in young families facing the loss of a parent.
I asked the question earlier, what do we do when we can’t retreat? We can all think of situations when we can’t retreat, and terminal illness is certainly one situation we cannot escape. Allow me to share a short excerpt from Kristen’s book, Consider it Pure Joy, named from Kristen’s favorite verses, James 1:2-4.
I have found trusting Him with my family to be much more difficult than trusting Him with myself alone. While difficult for me to fathom, I know through His promise that He loves Deric, Ashlea, Luke, and Rebecca even more than I do! It is impossible for me to imagine that anyone could love them as deeply as I, but His love is perfect and absolutely complete for each of us. Through faith I believe this promise and I trust that God in His perfect love will care for my children more fully than I would ever be capable of doing. I am learning to realize that whether or not any of us is able to remain on this earth to help Him raise our children to adulthood, there is no doubt that they will be cared for by their heavenly Father, the Creator of the universe, Who loves them more perfectly than any earthly parent can. Knowing this, how can I not rest in complete peace for my future and the future of my family? Please do not misunderstand, this was not something that God showed me and I immediately accepted. I have struggled and I have resisted. Many nights I have awakened, crying out to my Lord, “It CANNOT be all right for them to grow up without a mother! No one will care for them like I will! No one will love them like I do! If I die, how will they ever understand the extent to which I love them?” I still struggle with this aspect of God’s commandment to trust Him, but I feel I am getting closer.
Since Kristen died in October 2012, Romans 8:28 has become my favorite verse. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
I have to be honest, it took a long time for me to reach the place where I even liked that verse. I had many conversations (ok – maybe more like arguments) with God about how that could be true for me. I couldn’t understand how raising 3 teenagers alone while running a nonprofit ministry could be God’s good plan for me.
My struggle with this verse came to a head one Sunday morning in Huntersville, North Carolina, back in April of 2015. I had been invited to speak at a partner church about Inheritance of Hope and to play my trumpet. (I used to be a professional trumpet player.) On that Sunday, the praise band sang “Your Love Never Fails” by Jesus Culture. You may also recognize it as performed by the Newsboys. The chorus keeps repeating the line, “You make all things work together for my good.” I remember playing along and thinking, “I cannot understand how this promise is true.”
Unexpectedly, after the service, a friendly man approached me and handed me his card. I noticed that it was a Chick-fil-A business card. I followed-up with him afterward and learned that he didn’t live in North Carolina as I do. He worked in Atlanta in the Cathy family office. God was working for my good.
Let’s come back to Matthew 11:28-30 – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” What is our yoke? Our yoke is to trust. God has done the hard work, so we’re left with the ‘easy’ task of simply trusting.
2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!”
Re-created… We are re-created by being in Christ, by taking on His yoke.
It hasn't always been easy to trust that God is going to work all things for the good of me or my children through this. That's why Proverbs 3:5 has been an important reminder that we're not called to understand – but simply to trust. “Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” As Christians, we don’t have to understand, we just have to trust that He is working all things for our good. That’s our yoke that will bring rest for our souls. What could be more restful?
Deric Milligan is Co-Founder & CEO of Inheritance of Hope. He originally presented this material as a guest speaker at Chick-fil-A corporate headquarters.