The noise of an overflowing to-do list jarred me awake. I was shouldering the weight of too much to do, no clear roadmap for how to proceed, and a fear of not having enough time to do it all. The more aware I became of my burden, the more deeply I felt the potential for failure.
It’s no surprise that courage falters as the potential for failure increases.
With a mind churning to juggle multiple projects requiring my constant attention, I came, more out of habit than desire, to my daily prayer time. I needed stillness, yet this morning, even thinking about prayer stirred up too much internal commotion. I didn’t want to review my worries—like a shopping list—with God. To name them one by one and think about my desired outcomes would only agitate me further.
This was a morning for centering prayer—fifteen minutes of silence in God’s holy presence. Wordless centering prayer invites me to quiet my mind and be still. It takes my racing thoughts out of the spotlight and reminds me that trusting in God is my greatest source of courage.
Renewed courage begins with laying my burden down
As I move into a time of centering prayer, I remind myself to be still and ask God to speak in words, images, or senses. In the stillness of those quiet moments, he planted an image in my mind. As in a dream, I saw myself at the beach, alone. None of the usual beach paraphernalia was in sight. No chair or towel, no shovels or buckets. Just me. I watched as the self in my vision lowered her head into the mound of soft sand and attempted to burrow her way through it.
The image was unsettling. Who uses their head to bulldoze sand? It’s messy—sand gets in the eyes, the mouth, even the ears. It’s not efficient—a shovel would do so much better. Moving sand is not what the head was designed to do.
It wasn’t difficult to decipher the meaning of the vision. When under pressure, especially time pressure, I have a tendency to try bulldozing my way to my desired outcome.
Work harder. Work longer. Get. It. Done.
A literal heads-down approach.
But working furiously does not prove our courage, nor does it guarantee our success. Our measure of courage is not found in how tightly we tuck our head and plow forward. It is discovered as we lift our head and turn to the one who gives us his strength. Jesus spoke these words of comfort to the weary laborer,
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)
Finding courage in a posture of rest in God
When our courage falters because of the burdens we carry, and we find ourselves tempted to muscle our way through, we need to remember Jesus’ invitation to come to him. Our very burden qualifies us to come and receive his rest. This isn’t an exchange of work for vacation, but rather an exchange of worried burden-carrying for a quiet, restful soul in the midst of our work.
When we actively entrust ourselves into God’s loving care and mighty hands, we find we’re able to loosen our grip on our burdens and move toward him in trust. This isn’t a blind faith that everything will turn out well. This is trust; a prayerful expectancy of God’s help.
Lifting my head and turning my face toward God’s light, I sense his voice beckoning me to open my hands. With open hands and face turned toward him, he gently places a shovel in my hands and comes alongside me to work.
I’m finding courage in a posture of rest as I allow him to equip me to do what I cannot do alone.