My wife and I just returned from vacationing in Alaska. As a native of Houston and resident of Dallas, I was unprepared for the splendor of the Alaskan wilderness. The glaciers and waterfalls were breathtaking, the mountains majestic, the wildlife astonishing. We wore jackets for the first time since March.
I returned to the office yesterday and opened my email. The first article I read was titled, “The summer in 1 sentence.” The blog post links to Bret Stephens’s recent article in The Wall Street Journal and this sentence encapsulating recent events: “Islamic State terrorists seized Mosul and massacred Shiite soldiers in open pits, Russian separatists shot down a civilian jetliner, Hamas executed 18 ‘collaborators’ in broad daylight, Bashar Assad’s forces in Syria came close to encircling Aleppo with the aim of starving the city into submission, a brave American journalist had his throat slit on YouTube by a British jihadist, Russian troops openly invaded Ukraine, and Chinese jets harassed U.S. surveillance planes over international waters.”
I wanted to go back to Alaska.
Here’s the good news: no matter what is happening in the world, you and I can experience a joy the world can neither give nor steal. To that end, I have a book to recommend. Over the weekend I read Chasing Francis, by Ian Morgan Cron. The novel tells the story of a fictitious evangelical megachurch pastor who loses touch with God. He goes on a pilgrimage to Italy with a group of Franciscan priests who help him rediscover the joy of Jesus. They take him to various sites that were significant in the life and ministry of St. Francis; at each the pastor finds new insight into Francis and into Jesus.
One theme that resonated deeply with me is Francis’s commitment to shalom, a peace that reconciles all dimensions of God’s creation, essentially reversing the Fall. We can have shalom wherever we are, whatever we face, so long as we seek it in Jesus. He alone is the Prince of Peace. He alone gives the peace, contentment, tranquility and joy our souls long to experience.
In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus calls “all who labor and are heavy laden” to come to himself. On the heels of Labor Day, his invitation seems especially relevant. “Labor” refers to work we choose—ambitions, driving initiative, plans and goals. “Heavy laden” refers to work placed on us by others—burdens we carry, responsibilities we shoulder.
When we bring both to Jesus, he promises: “I will give you rest.” How? “Take my yoke upon you,” he explains. The yoke was used to direct the oxen and to lighten their load. When we are under Jesus’ yoke, following his lead as our Master and Lord, he promises that we “will find rest for your souls.”
We are all wearing someone’s yoke today. Like the rest of us, you “labor and are heavy laden” right now. No matter what you face today, God intends you to have rest and peace. If your soul is not at peace, you are not under Jesus’ yoke. If you are under his yoke, you have his peace.
Which is true for you?