The Bible is a big book, written in ancient languages to people living long before contemporary culture. For folks unfamiliar with the people and practices it contains, it can also be confusing. It helps to read such words along with a commentary, designed to explain perplexing passages, or with a devotional, which tend to highlight one short passage at a time.
One inspiring new devotional, which does just that, is Ordinary Graces: Word Gifts for any Season (Abingdon Press, 2017), by Connecticut author and speaker Lucinda Secrest McDowell. Divided into four sections – Grace, Strength, Gratitude and Life – the book contains 30 brief meditations on each theme while illuminating individual words found in Scripture. All are encouraging and easy to grasp, brought to life by McDowell’s years of theological study, her own experiences and the experiences and reflections of others, all of which she skillfully weaves together.
One entry, to which I particularly relate, is a reflection on the word ‘weary.’ Based on Christ’s invitation in Matthew 11:28 (NIV), “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” McDowell invites readers to let go of their burdens.
McDowell, who holds a master of divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, explains that the Greek word for ‘weary’ is kopiao, which means “to grow tired with burdens or grief. This is the kind of emotional fatigue that penetrates every point of the body.”
I certainly have.
“Much of our sense of being ‘burdened’ is self-inflicted,” McDowell writes, going on to quote author Ray Stedman. “We feel as if everything is all up to us, when in reality we can now ‘rest in dependence on the activity of Another who dwells within.’”
This is the good news of the Gospel: we don’t have to go it alone. Or as McDowell says, “Don’t try to live the Christian life in your own strength… All you have to do is take Jesus up on his invitation to ‘come.’ Now is the time to send Him that RSVP—yes!”
Following each meditation, McDowell offers a brief passage envisioning God’s thoughts toward his children. “My child, bring your weary body and soul to me,” McDowell concludes. “I [God] offer you the gift of rest in the midst of a quiet peace that will envelop you as you draw near to the One who created you. With limits. You are not meant to keep going constantly. So come apart and rest beside your weary road.”
The Scriptural antidote for our frenetic, driven, go-go-go culture? Deep rest. Reliance on the person of Christ. Renewal by the Holy Spirit. Despite how long ago the Bible was written, its words are just as relevant today. McDowell’s reflections bring these ancient words home to a modern culture, which needs the truth more than ever.
Meadow Rue Merrill, the author of Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. She received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.