When was the last time you truly rested? I’m not necessarily talking about sleeping, or taking a nap, though physical rest is certainly part of what Jesus was talking about. What about spiritual rest? What does that even look like? What does it mean to take a “real rest?” What does He mean when by “unforced rhythms of grace?” These are all questions that come to mind as I read this passage.
We live in a “Green Light” society in the US – always moving, never stopping to rest, reflect, catch our breath, or take care of ourselves. Even in our spiritual lives, we feel that we have to constantly be doing something religious or spiritual to please God, or sometimes, we do it so others will see how good of a person we are. Jesus was speaking to these types of people two thousand years ago when he talks about the “yoke”. The yoke was what was placed on the oxen or mules to plow fields. He makes the comparison of the yoke to the pressures and burdens that the Pharisees (religious leaders of the time) placed on people’s lives to follow every letter of the law. It was unbearable and impossible. They believed that they could only please God by being a good enough person, and it just wore people down.
We often place these same burdens on ourselves today don’t we? Whether it is spiritually or just in the way that we constantly feel like we have to be doing something, we are a busy nation - in need of rest.
Have you ever been here before? When you read those first three questions in Matthew 11, do you answer “Yes” to each one? Christ simply says, “Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly”.
In resting in Christ, I find peace. There are so many worries that could overwhelm my mind, my spirit, and my life. I have to trust that God is in control, and even when things don’t go the way I planned, this truth never changes. I can rest and find peace even in the midst of the storms of life.
I am also taken by the phrase “real rest”. To me, it means that we often settle for shadows of the rest God wants to offer us. What do you think real rest could look like in your life?
It’s important to note the importance of the Sabbath rest in Scripture. God makes it very clear the importance of devoting one day each week to rest. I know what you’re thinking…”Great idea, but tell that to whoever is planning my kids’ baseball tournaments, dance competitions, and all the other things that require our time and energy.” Very true. I feel strongly though, that if the God who created the universe and everything in it says to work as hard as you can for six days of the week, and I want you to invest one day to rest – that maybe He has some insight into what we need to “live life to the fullest” – which is what we are all searching for.
Here’s your challenge for the week:
- Start small. Invest one hour before the end of this week to rest in Christ. This time can be used in many ways. For example, you could:
- Find a quiet place by a creek and just enjoy the sounds and beauty around you. Spend time in prayer, reflection and silence.
- Spend some time in God’s Word and ask for Him to encourage your spirit in whatever challenges you may be going through that produce anxiety and fear.
- Find rest for your spirit in Christ. May your work and good deeds be as a response to what Christ has done in your life.