People need challenges. They need responsibilities. They need a sense of purpose and significance.
But they will not get it from lots of leisure time and a light workload. Believe it or not, the burdens we carry, day by day, provide a source of emotional and mental stability. Let me explain.
The famous 20th Century medical missionary, Dr. Thomas Lambie, served for 35-plus years in Ethiopia. While traveling thousands of miles on foot into the country’s interior, he had to cross many raging streams and rivers. During these crossings, he saw many unsuspecting porters and missionaries swept off their feet by the swift river currents. Often this lead to their deaths.
The Ethiopians understood the dangers of the strong river currents and had discovered a way to survive them. They would pick up large rocks, the heavier the better, and carry them on their shoulders while crossing rivers. This added weight stabilized their footing and planted their steps firmly on the river bottoms. The added weight on their backs stabilized them against the current and preserved their lives.
Dr. Lambie reflected often on what he’d seen and thought about the most difficult times of his life. His most depressing times were when he had little to do and no clear direction. It was as if he was loosing his emotional footing. In contrast, his happiest times were when he had much to do and a sense of mission and purpose. The Ethiopians stabilized their footing against the current by carrying a heavy rock. So the burdens and responsibilities we bear, give us stability against self-pity, distractions, depression, and the noise of this life.
It should be no surprise to us, that when Jesus Christ calls people to come to Him for rest. He says “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me … and you shall find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29) Rest of soul is not found in inactivity, but in service to God and to our fellow human beings. Happiness is not achieved by hoarding loads of leisure time, but in using time to serve others.
Consider these quotes:
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
“For it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, it is in giving that we receive, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
-Saint Francis of Assisi
Dear Father in heaven, Help me not to shirk responsibility nor shrink from challenges. Remind me how much I need them – to find stability of mind and rest of soul. Amen.