Today’s words are probably one of the best loved of Christ’s invitations:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. ” Mat. 11:28-29
All who are weary and burdened… and who doesn’t feel like that? There’s physical weariness, which is primarily what I thought of when I learned these verses as a child; but there’s also emotional and spiritual exhaustion that can pull at us and drain all the joy from us. The longer we live in this world, I think the more weary our souls tend to be and we long for rest… sweet, life-giving rest. It’s something the world yearns for, but it cannot give. The world tells us to stifle our weariness with more activity and more noise. But God calls us to be still and rest in Him.
He offers us rest from our worry and anxiety. God’s word is filled with the phrase “Do not be afraid”. I think they are the words God speaks most often. This year I’m keeping a notebook of every time I come across those words. One thing that I’ve noticed is that God always gives a reason for why we should not fear. And almost always, that reason is because God is near, because He knows our situation, and because He is our Savior. Our reasons why we can rest from fear are rooted in the character of God and His presence with us. The world is a fearful place, the future is unknown, but God is bigger than it all and His voice reassures us that we can rest in knowing He is here.
Christ also gives us rest from our guilt. Guilt is one of the most powerful negative emotions and it stifles the joy and peace we’re meant to have. Like most negative emotions, it has its place and purpose to help us recognize when we’ve done wrong, but if we stay stuck in that place listening only to the accusations of guilt, then we’re robbed of the life we’re meant to have. The anecdote to guilt is forgiveness and Christ freely offers that to all who ask. Not only does He forgive, but He gives us His righteousness. We can live confidently in His presence knowing that He sees us as perfect and blameless because He has removed all our sin and shame as far as the east is from the west.
We have rest from achievement. This is the greatest application for me in this passage and the one I continue to struggle with the most. I’m very results driven – I expect to do a lot and to do it efficiently and perfectly every time. I naturally align my self-worth very closely with what I accomplish. And this is deadly. When I measure my worth by my activity, it’s never enough and my pursuits rule over me as a cruel and merciless master. This is where Christ’s words find the deepest meaning for me. He tells us to stop… just stop whatever we’re doing that we think will give us worth or make us accepted. We don’t have to work for God’s love or favor. He has given it fully and unconditionally to us. There’s not a single thing we can do to make Him love us more. In starting to grasp this truth over the past few years, it has been an enormous weight off my heart. And if we’re secure in knowing that God loves us, then we don’t need to seek for approval from ourselves or others. I don’t need to drive myself into exhaustion to prove to myself that I’m awesome and I don’t need others to affirm that. No more fighting, bowing, scraping, competing to get ahead. We’re free to do our best and leave the outcome in God’s hands. No more expectations or self-absorbance in relationships. We’re free to give love and grace to others without condition, knowing that we’ve experienced God’s full love and grace in our lives.
In what ways do you need rest right now? What are you struggling with or weighed down by? Christ’s invitation to rest is for you. He understands and knows the weariness of our hearts. His life-giving rest is an eternal gift that fills our lives with joy and peace.
Blessings to you,