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“For I have given rest to the weary and joy to the sorrowing.” (Jeremiah 31:25)

Towering above New York Harbor is the Statue of Liberty. That stately lady, with freedom’s torch held high, has beckoned millions of people who were suffering from oppression and seeking a better way of life. Drawn to what that monument symbolizes, it is without a doubt one of America’s greatest landmarks as it appears against the NYC skyline in images sent around the globe. Once referred to as “The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World” – it was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the United States. Recognized as a universal symbol of freedom and democracy, the statue was a welcoming sight to immigrants arriving from abroad being processed at nearby Ellis Island. Built in France and shipped overseas in crates – it was assembled on the finished pedestal on what was then called Bedloe’s Island, now known as Liberty Island. It was made with an exterior of copper and originally had a far shinier appearance than its green of today. The statue’s completion was marked by New York’s first ticker-tape parade and a dedication ceremony presided over by President Grover Cleveland on October 28, 1886.

Inscribed on the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal are these words by Emma Lazarus from her 1883 poem “The New Colossus”:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore;
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Lazarus was one of the first successful and publicly recognized Jewish American authors. She was born in New York City to a wealthy family. She began writing and translating poetry as a teenager and was publishing translations of German poems by the 1860s. Lazarus was moved by the fierce persecution of her people in Russia, a frequent topic of her writings, as well as their struggles to assimilate into American culture.

Paralleling the beautiful stanzas inscribed on the base of Lady Liberty are the comforting words of another, articulated many centuries before. They were spoken by Jesus who said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). When Jesus said He would give us rest – it meant we wouldn’t need to go find it, earn it or spiritually strive to develop it. It is simply a gift God gives us when we come to Him and openly receive it. This is liberty in its purest form. There is much debate in recent years as to how much automatic freedom should be granted to those who seek refuge in another country.  Some argue that such immigrants should follow a lawful process that leads to citizenship. Others feel that there should be open borders and an entitlement for all who come. Perhaps the Apostle Paul, who took advantage of his status as both a Jew and a Roman citizen to minister to both audiences, understood it best when he said – “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). For those who dare to journey with Jesus, we can access His enduring rest and experience everlasting freedom. As Christians in a fast-paced world, we too often find it difficult to relax in God’s gift of rest. Instead, we wear busyness like a badge of honor, carry loads we were never meant to bear, and for what . . . to simply get ahead. When we allow ourselves to pause and take time to be with God, we will receive His rest. In doing so we may not always be able to avail ourselves of all the earthly riches we might desire, but we will find that there is power in the act of resting. Jesus told His disciples: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20). Too often we find ourselves becoming part of the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. As you go throughout your day, let your heart find that true place of rest in His Presence.

REFLECTION:  What types of activities cause you to have feelings of “weary and burden?” As you look at these, how might you prioritize being able to find some time alone with God?  Consider reinstating some affirming thing in your life that used to bring you joy. Ask others to support you in this effort.


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