I remember a time when I was busy, too busy really. There wasn’t enough time for adequate physical rest, much less soul rest. Always another need to fill, goal to reach, or way to serve. My body was weary. My soul languished. God gently compelled me to seek rest. But I had no idea how to actually rest!
And so began my journey towards rest. A journey that still continues today. And, if I’m honest, will continue for the rest of my life.
Rest doesn’t come naturally to most. From an early age performance, achievement and growth are the natural milestones of our lives. We can easily and, at times, unconsciously, base our worth, our significance, on them.
And yet, God repeatedly invites us into rest. How do we do it?
Jesus Tells Us How to Rest
Matthew 11:28-30 are some of my favorite verses on this topic. They draw me again and again into the rest that God so graciously offers us. Jesus says,
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon 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.
Jesus gives three instructions for resting:
- Come to Me
- Take My yoke
- Learn from Me
You Rest by Coming to Jesus
It’s easy to think of rest as sleep. Perhaps because that’s the area we first realize how desperately we need rest! Or maybe your idea of rest is when everything is still and quiet and you feel like you can actually breathe. This was my association for a period of time, too!
But rest is more than this. Rest is even more than going away on a vacation. It’s more than those times in your life when everything seems to go smoothly. (Does that actually happen?!)
Rest is found in the person and presence of Jesus. When you’re weary, you need Jesus to carry you. When you’re laden with heavy circumstances of life, you need Jesus to bear the burden. When you’re anxious and afraid, you need to draw near to Jesus who is gentle of heart.
Jesus sees you and knows you. He always welcomes you. He is sufficient for all your needs, at all times, regardless. The beauty is that you can come to Jesus anytime, anywhere. You don’t need the right setting. You don’t need a week away from all the stresses of life. You can draw near in your mind and heart. You can come close and pour out your heart to Him. You can hide under the shelter of His wings.
And when you do, you will stop carrying your own burdens and will find rest for your soul.
You Rest by Taking Jesus’ Yoke
A yoke is made for two animals to pull together. They work alongside each other. They head in the same direction. They synchronize their steps. How amazing that Jesus offers this to us. He offers a way for us to join Him. We can get in step with Him. We can go wherever He leads us.
Usually, there is a younger, weaker ox yoked up with the stronger, lead ox. Jesus here is offering to take the lead. To show us where to go. He is ready to take the responsibility for our lives. He is ready to give His strength for our benefit. He invites us to be companions with Him as we journey through life.
This picture makes me think of Proverbs 3:5-6.
Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. (MSG)
When we yoke in with Jesus, we can rest because we’re not trying to figure everything out on our own. We are not trusting in our self-sufficiency. We are trusting Him, listening to Him. And, as a result, we stay on track! He keeps us right where He wants us to be.
This is why Jesus says His yoke is easy and the burden is light. Because it doesn’t depend on us. It depends only on Him. It leads us into rest.
You Rest by Learning from Jesus
Jesus came to earth to show us a true picture of the Father and how to live in dependence and obedience to Him. Every step of the way, Jesus asked the Father what was next, listened for His answer, and carried out His will.
There is a lot we can learn by watching the life of Jesus. He can lead us into truth in every facet of our lives. But for today, let’s just look at two ideas that relate to what He’s already told us in the Matthew passage.
- Jesus did nothing on His own initiative. He repeats this idea throughout the book of John. (John 5:30, 7:16, 8:28, 8:42, 12:49, 14:24) His teaching, His words, even His coming to earth was not His own making or choosing but came from His Father.
In a sense then, you could say that Jesus was yoked in with His Father. He gave up His right to His own abilities and privileges as a member of the Trinity. He got His directions from the Father. He listened for His Father’s voice. He submitted His will to His Father’s will. And even in the midst of hate, persecution, betrayal, and suffering, He experienced rest in His soul.
Jesus showed us what it is like to live this kind of life. Jesus showed us that while not always easy, this way of life is always best and good. Jesus showed us that living this way can be done. He did it perfectly.
And you know what? He’s ready to do it again for you. He doesn’t ask you to live life the way He lived. He doesn’t ask you to try harder and be more faithful. He asks you to depend on Him and rest in Him and He will do it in you and through you.
- Jesus entrusted Himself to God again and again. Even Jesus was tempted to rely on Himself, to do the right thing the wrong way. This was the essence of the temptations in the desert. Jesus had every opportunity to respond in anger or hate to His (false) accusers. And yet at every turn He was victorious. How? I Peter 2:23 tells us.
When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
Jesus continued entrusting himself to the Father. He continually moved away from self-reliance and self-sufficiency and continually entrusted His reputation, His next steps, His very life to the Father.
Jesus found rest in the presence of the Father. Rest from retaliation. Rest from caring about His reputation. Rest from ensuring that everyone knew He was right and they were wrong.
I find this idea so encouraging! Jesus kept entrusting Himself. It doesn’t surprise Him that I have to keep entrusting myself over and over and over again. And the more I do it, the greater the rest. It’s a simple act with great reward.
Jesus Gives the Best Kind of Rest
My favorite dictionary definition of rest is this
Relief or freedom, especially from anything that wearies, troubles or disturbs
This is the kind of rest Jesus offers. Not just cessation of activity. Not just being still. (Although these are meaningful types of rest and gifts in and of themselves.) But true rest of the soul. The ability to be free of whatever is weighing us down and to be given grace as we navigate this life.
How Will You Rest?
I think it’s safe enough to say that you need rest today. I need rest today. Jesus needed rest everyday that He was here on earth.
Do you need rest from burdens you are carrying? Jesus says, Come to Me.
Do you need rest from trying to figure everything out? Jesus says, Take My yoke.
Do you need rest from relying on yourself? Jesus says, Learn from Me, entrust yourself to God.
If these verses and this idea of rest struck a chord somewhere deep within, I’d encourage you to do something more than just read this post and move on.
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Read Breathe: Creating Space for God in a Hectic Life The framework for this book is the passage in Matthew. (FYI: The intended audience is moms. However, I read it LONG before I had kids, or was even married, and gleaned lots of truth that I could easily apply to my overly busy life!)
Listen to “Jesus I am Resting” and make it your prayer.
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