An Unexpected Understanding
A devotional by Shellie Arnold
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." ~Matthew 11:28-29 (ESV)
I’ve never been so tired in my life as I was after having my third child. A chunky, curly-headed baby girl. She was the answer to prayers. A miracle. And because of her digestive issues, I had no choice but to nurse her.
She is also a night person, like her father. As an infant, when 7 p.m. rolled around, Stephanie came alive. She needed interaction most when my system was counting the minutes until bedtime for her brothers, knowing if I didn’t get her to sleep before 11 p.m., she’d stay awake until 12:30 a.m. or later, yet still wake in the night.
Don’t get me wrong. Stephanie was a happy baby. She didn’t scream during the night, she simply wanted to play. For months I survived with a few hours of sleep per night on her bedroom floor. Yes, it is possible to spend an entire day with your pants on inside out and backward, but the nagging feeling something is wrong doesn’t quite get through the mental fog of exhaustion.
Often when I was in her room at night, I’d remember this verse and pray. “Jesus, please give me rest. Help this baby sleep. Give me rest.” As months passed, negative thoughts found fertile ground and set in. "I’m not a good mom. I’m not a good wife." Eventually, I felt worse inside than I felt outside.
One particularly long night as I pondered these verses, verse 29 caught my attention as it never had before. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…”. I easily identified with the “take my yoke” part. Follow Jesus’ example. Obey the Father.
But I’d completely missed the “learn from me” part. And honestly, I took exception to it as I rocked and nursed my daughter, praying she’d quickly go back to sleep. Jesus was never a nursing mother. What could I possibly learn from Him about exhaustion? About being awake, alone, at night, with only prayer to keep you company.
An image of Jesus praying in Gethsemane came to my mind, the Holy Spirit gently chiding, yet encouraging me. As if the Father was saying, “See, He was tired, too. He could only pray alone, too. Even those who promised to pray with Him didn’t.”
Since then, I’ve found comfort in identifying with the tough times Jesus faced. I study how He reacted to betrayal. To rejection. To being misunderstood and labeled and forgotten. In times of my worst pain, I’m learning to encourage myself. “Shellie, Jesus has been here, too. You can survive this.”
And He’s always there to teach me through His Word and through His example. When I pay attention, I really can learn from Him.
Shellie Arnold is a writer and speaker on marriage and family. She truly believes—despite baggage, neglect, or mistakes—if a husband and wife listen to God, they can live happily ever after. Her passion is sharing how God is helping her do exactly that.
She maintains a blog at www.shelliearnold.com and is the founder of YOUR MARRIAGE resources.
Shellie is a mother of three and has home-schooled for over twenty years. She lives in Ohio with her husband of thirty-one years.