Rest for the Weary
Yesterday, my son had an incredibly difficult time staying awake. Every time I looked away, he would nod off, and eventually, I just let him nap even though he was supposed to be awake for another thirty minutes. This tiredness is not new to us, especially after the year we all just experienced. My son’s exhaustion was reminiscent of our current state of affairs. Whether in relation to global pandemics or the chaotic political climate, people are done with all the pain and the tedious nature of our current predicament, but the world continues to rotate and bad things will continue to happen. Life in the midst of a fallen world is excruciatingly taxing, and it is sometimes difficult to find respite. However, as believers, we have access to a divinely sanctioned rest in our Creator.
God set an important precedent early in history; he rested on the seventh day. This rest would soon inspire the Sabbath day, a day in which no Israelite was to work. Though the fourth commandment (“remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy”) has been taken to legalistic extremes in Jewish history, it is important to prioritize rest in our lives, especially in the face of so much stress. The Sabbath, according to the Bible, was established to remind Israel of their deliverance out of Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:12-15) and God’s creativity witnessed at the creation of all things (Exodus 20:8-11). It is interesting that this mandatory rest aimed to focus Jewish minds on God and these particular attributes of provision and sovereignty.
After some further thought, it would seem that these attributes play into our ability to rest as humans. Much of what tires us out involves our lack of control over our needs and our contexts. Whether or not you are worried about providing food and shelter for yourself and your family or you are concerned with what is taking place in the political arena, fatigue is sure to follow the problems of the world, and this fatigue is not something that can be cured with a good nights rest. How then, are we to rest, if we cannot escape the problems that surround us daily? The answer is easier to discuss than it is to practice. We must give our problems and needs over to the Lord.
Jesus says in Matthew 11: 28-30, “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.” The answer is as simple as exchanging yokes with Christ, but we are far too often reluctant to hand over our burdens for Jesus to manage. Unfortunately, we cannot rest with the weight of the load that we carry; it is too heavy with the troubles of this world. We need to trust God with our lives. Trust, of course, is the answer to this trade that Jesus propositions in Matthew, and it is our lack of trust in God which causes us to hold on to our yokes.
If we were to truly have faith in our loving, heavenly Father to take care of us, we would be able to find rest in him. We would surely be able to hand over our burdens and take on Christ’s yoke. Our bills and debts would not bog us down, and the worry over presidential elections would become a trivial thing. Truly, even death itself would not longer be a fear to which we cling, yet we still find ourselves unwilling to trust God to take care of us. Christ recognized this exhaustion and its source. He tells us that we will find rest for our souls. Raised by a carpenter, Jesus understood physical tiredness, but he also understood their was a fatigue that settled deeper still into the very heart of humankind. Sleep does wonders for people. It rejuvenates us and lifts our spirits even in the midst of trials. However, it cannot fully give our souls respite. Only Christ can do that.
Jesus did not lie to us in Matthew 11, and he proved himself true while he was still physically walking the earth. He bore a burden that was destined for us, as he carried the cross up towards the site of his execution. Giving us his guiltless and easy yoke, he offered our souls freedom from the chains of sin, death, and God’s eternal wrath. With his sacrifice thousands of years ago, we are now free to trade in our heavy burdens for a paradise far greater than any load we could ever carry. Through the fire and flames, through the financial storm, the ruinous politics, and social unrest, we can find peace through the one who called, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give your rest.”