Written by Caleb Daniel, USA
Growing up in church, I often heard Jesus described as my “forever friend.” I sat in Sunday school classes where Jesus was constantly presented as the best friend I could ever have. I heard over and over how He loved me so much, He gave His life for me, and that I was to share this love I had been given with others. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love” (John 15:9). I’m sure many of you have had this same experience.
However, somewhere along the path, many of us have lost sight of this side of God’s heart.
I didn’t realize until I was in my third year of college that I had forgotten about the friendship I could have with Jesus. I had become so calloused to the tender side of His relationship with me that it often felt more like I was His spiritual employee, rather than someone He delights in. I had just taken the role of president for a successful college ministry, and shortly into that semester, my days were overcome by the hustle of trying to keep up with all the work that had to be done. Reading my Bible began to feel like a chore; prayer felt shallow. Even during worship, I felt disconnected from the awe that had once wooed my heart into the presence of God. I was given a mission to share the gospel with the world, yet what should be a joyous assignment started to feel more burdensome than life-giving. That’s why the moment Jesus had with His disciples in the last chapter of John, is one of my favorites.
Jesus had just risen from the dead and had only appeared to the disciples a few times. They had gone out to fish and were having a bit of difficulty reeling in the catch. Jesus calls out to them from the shore and instructs them to try the other side of the boat. When they noticed it was Jesus who was offering the advice, Peter leaped out of the boat to meet Him (John 21:7). As the rest of the disciples arrived shortly behind, they found breakfast waiting for them on the shore.
I would have assumed that Jesus would spend His last moments on earth evangelizing, healing the sick, or raising the dead. Wouldn’t that be more productive? However, here we see a more relaxed side of Jesus. Maybe, this time with His friends was meant to be the last demonstration of a point He had been trying to communicate the whole time: “Remain in my love.” It wasn’t about what they could do for Jesus. The message was about a love that could change their lives, and even more, the world!
Take a minute to imagine this: the cool morning air, the smell of fresh bread, the joy of fellowship with your closest friends. How sweet it must have been for them to enjoy this last moment with Jesus, free from the crowds who were constantly swarming to get to the Messiah. Jesus, the Savior of the world, spent some of His very last time here before heading back to Heaven, serving His friends breakfast on the beach.
We too often forget the beauty of resting in friendship with Jesus. He instructs us to remain connected to Him, the true grapevine, because He knows how easy it is to get swept up in the forceful waves of living under religious obligation instead of relationship (see John 15:1-17). When we accept His invitation to delight in Him as a friend, we are set free! Free from the expectation to be productive in ministry. Free from the weight that we carry on our shoulders to have it all together all the time. Free from the shame of not being or doing enough for the kingdom.
Knowing this, my life was refreshed and relieved of tension I didn’t even know I was carrying. In a moment, I felt like 10 bags of bricks had been lifted off of my soul’s shoulders. I began to see more in the Word than I had before. I lost track of time praying. My time in worship became a genuine response of praise for what He had done. The things that I used to do out of obligation developed into times of communion and friendship with Him. I stopped trying so hard to meet every rule I had set for myself and found peace. Plus, I began to feel Him everywhere, no matter where I was or who I was with. My life with Him was no longer limited to the acts we label as spiritual. His presence filled the times when I was cooking dinner, walking to class, and even watching Netflix. I truly felt as though He was interested in even the seemingly “normal” parts of my life, not just when I was fulfilling a “spiritual discipline.” I finally reconnected with a long-lost friend, and it was just what I needed.
For those of you who are weary, tired, and burnt out, find rest in Him today. Release a deep breath and remember this truth that I hold on to whenever I fall back into that cycle of obligation:
He enjoys you. He loves spending time with you. And, He doesn’t expect 100 per cent perfection 100 per cent of the time. You are free to lean back into His grace which will free you from the burden of trying to be enough.