A few years back, a saying was quite popular. It went something like, "Don't worry, be happy!" The idea of the saying had many meanings, but I'd like us to think of it this way - stop fretting so much on stuff you cannot control and learn to control what you have been given control over - your emotions! I don't know about you, but one of the hardest things in life has been to keep my emotions under control. I get down, bounce back up, fret about stuff, and rest in peace. It is a roller-coaster of sorts, huh? Jude is one short letter - one chapter, twenty-five verses. Yet, the second verse speaks volumes.
I, Jude, am a slave to Jesus Christ and brother to James, writing to those loved by God the Father, called and kept safe by Jesus Christ. Relax, everything’s going to be all right; rest, everything’s coming together; open your hearts, love is on the way! (Jude 1:1-2 MSG)
Lest we gloss over what Jude says in the first verse, I will spend just a moment elaborating a little. First, look at Jude's condition - he is a slave. This may not have been the case in the natural sense, in his daily employment - but in the spiritual, he is very certain of this - he is in a place of service to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Second, he has a family line - the brother to James. He is connecting the dots for the readers - not only is he the brother to one of the leaders of the New Testament churches, but he is of a new family line, as well - that of Christ. Last, he has an audience he desires to communicate with - those loved by God, called and kept safe by Jesus. In other words, it is a letter to believers - those who have given their hearts to Christ - deciding to no longer live according to their own plans, but according to the plans Christ dictates for their lives.
Then, in a way which lays out an introduction to the rest of the message he will bring, he states three very challenging conditions of emotion: Relax, Rest, and Open Your Hearts! I want to focus on these three messages today - hoping to connect the truth with the condition of our hearts (emotions) which Jude was really after.
- RELAX - everything's going to be all right. This is the opposite of tension. When we are tense, we are usually focused so intently on some circumstance and the tension created just magnifies the circumstance, sometimes to proportions we just cannot handle. In presenting the idea of learning to RELAX a little in Christ, Jude is telling us to focus less on the circumstance and more on the one who controls it! Trust me - it is NOT us! Look at what he has just said - we are called and KEPT safe by Jesus Christ. No amount of worry (tension) on our part will bring the results of allowing Christ do the very thing he delights to do in our lives! We can RELAX because we know we are KEPT. When we realize we are being "kept", we begin to see it is not the "work" we do, but the work of Christ being done on our behalf.
- REST - everything's coming together. The first step to "rest" is in learning to "relax". When we hold on to some things so tightly, increasing the tension we interpret in the circumstance, we find it hard to rest. Why do we feel tension and the need to hold so tightly? It is because we think we have the responsibility to work out the details! A couple nights ago, I did not sleep well. Mom was not herself - probably struggling with a little bit of infection in her body. In the elderly, this results in confusion. Her rising levels of confusion were concerning to me. So, I tossed and turned a little. It was not until I "relaxed" my grip on her needs, placing them squarely in the hands of Jesus, that I began to be able to "rest". I had done all I was "taught" to do to treat the condition - now, the results were up to God. Good news - she is "clearing" in her mentation and we are back in the swing of things again! Who brought this all together? Not me! It was God's care in her life, me doing what he showed me to do, then letting go of the rest.
- OPEN YOUR HEARTS - love is on the way. The ability to relax and rest are tied to the ability to open our hearts! If you have ever tried to be open to love - receiving from another - when you are all tensed up, emotions in a bundle of knots, it is almost impossible, isn't it? If you have been engaged from sun up to sun down, finding it difficult to shut-off even when you need to sleep, you probably know what it is like to miss the opportunities to open up to love because you are so consumed by you inability to let go. Look again at what Jude tells us - love IS on the way. In order to not miss it, we have to be open to it. When our hearts are crowded with cares and worries, we have little room for love - in fact, we often see it as just something "extra" we have to make room for! A long time ago, a friend gave me my first journal. Know what the cover said? "Open Heart, Open Home" - and the pages were completely blank - not even lined. You know what she was telling me? I don't need all the "lines" in life to be there! If I will just learn to relax and rest in Christ, I will be able to see the beauty he wants to create in this "home" of my heart!
Not sure where you are today in this moment, but I imagine some are struggling with tension far beyond what is good for you. In fact, you probably find yourself "winding up" so tight you cannot possibly "wind down"! Just remember - tension is only good for a little while - too much stretches us beyond our capacity to recover! Others are finding it difficult to rest - minds racing with all kinds of worries and cares. Trying to hit the "off-button" on these cares is like trying to stay ahead of the dandelions in the yard when you have a toddler who loves to blow those little white puffs of seeds into the air and watch with glee as they sail away! I learned a secret - using a "pre-emergent" keeps those pesky things from blooming in the first place! Maybe some "preemptive" action on your part will allow you to rest a little easier!
Being open to love is both a condition of the mind (will) and heart (emotions). We only are OPEN when we "will" ourselves to be! Hearts hurt in the past often "tense up" in the present. Tense emotions don't often welcome new opportunities to experience love. Just sayin!