There was a period where rest felt unwelcome to me. It was an issue of time, I didn’t fully understand the power of rest for the soul. And funny thing was that I wasn’t all that busy, I just didn’t know how to be still. And for a time, I could function like that. I could run on empty and keep going on sheer adrenaline. Sometimes because I was young, and other times because I didn’t have a choice. But most of the time because I just didn’t know how to change the pattern that I kept following.
But then…I’d hit a brick wall. Shut down was always the result of filling my days with more than what I ought to…especially when I failed to start first with His Word. I learned the hard way, as most of us seem bound to attend to, that if I don’t heed His Wisdom and choose to rest, then my body will make that choice for me.
Why does it take difficulties to make us see things rightly?
The hard times often weigh down deep on our soul, pushing us right into the space where our knees meet the floor. And yet, somehow this bent and low and humble position of our souls, a passionate petitioning of heaven even in our weariness is the safest place to be found. Abiding close in the grip of grace, calling … no, crying out… to the One who is able to meet the groans of unimaginable and impenetrable with a love that covers a multitude is actively choosing rest in Christ versus the inactivity of waiting without him in our every day journeys and experiences.
It is the way we are relieved of the burdens of the busy we fill our days with. It is a reward of quiet to comfort the deep inner space where His light needs to shine into the dark corners and shadowed doorways into our hearts. Not only do our souls wither, when we abdicate the blessing of rest, but our bodies follow the broken paradigm of depravity and we find ourselves grasping for breath and seeking recovery rather than equipping ourselves purposefully for our callings.
If we do not allow for a rhythm of rest in our overly busy lives, illness becomes our Sabbath. – Wayne Muller
Jesus reminded us to welcome rest as a comfort, as a form of communion and an invitation to fellowship with Him in Matthew 11. His plea to come and to exchange my weight is a miracle of mercy to me, but can I be honest… I don’t always know how to let go. Partly because I don’t know how to pause well… I am not familiar with the pattern of slow and gentle as much as I’d like to be. And partly because I can still be caught up in works and service no matter how long I remind myself that grace always wins that fight.
But these Red-Letter Words of instruction are waiting words. I am more and more intrigued by the power of the word…wait. These words of rest and comfort reveal the wonder of His mercy, a waterfall of grace He spills into our broken and bruised and hurried-through places. I am challenged as I study His Word on weariness, to see rest as sojourn of discovery.
What if rest is the answer we have been waiting to find, and what if waiting is the power to break every spiritual weight that has been heavy on your heart?
Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.]
Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls.
Rest is a creative space for His light to flood our souls, a tending place to be filled with relief and refreshment so that we can continue faithfully in our journey.
The word rest comes from the Greek word anapauso. It means to give rest and intermission from the toiling and the burden-bearing that has become commonplace for most of us. Unlike being busy, choosing rest allows us to abide with the One who knit our souls together for an eternal working…a heavenly calling… a purpose-filled waiting… a holy endeavor.
Anapauso is talking about the Sabbath kind of resting from Exodus 16:23 and Hebrews 4:9, the kind that allows us to be refreshed and built up for the work ahead. And that is exactly what rest is meant to do, prepare us for what is ahead.
Sabbath isn’t another rung on a spiritual ladder we climb…God invites you to rest because He loves who you are. When you abide with Him in Sabbath, an unshakable confidence shines from the inside out, enticing others toward the gift of rest as well….Sabbath is waiting for Christ to come into our every day, messy, uncomfortable life and making sense of it all…”-Shelly Miller, Rhythms of Rest.
We all ought to learn how to operate from a state of rest, the be still and know God kind of resting (Ps 46:10), instead of the working so hard that we fall down when we are burnt out kind of rest. The empty rest that has left us thirsty and hungry and unable to find the living water or the bread of life in our desperation.
We are invited to Come to Christ; to Take His Burden; and to Learn His Way.
The grammar Matthew 11 clarifies the idea a little further.
- The invitation is for ALL those who labor , which is an active verb indicating the subject is doing the work, and toil, which is a passive verb indicating the action is being done to the subject.
- There are 3 commands that we are told to follow: Come, Take and Learn.
- The result of obedience is a rest that includes both physical rest from the labor, and spiritual rest from the burden of toil.
All who toil and labor are invited to come to Christ, take of His gentleness and learn of his humility so that their souls find the relief, ease and refreshment that recreates life in the very act of waiting with God can bring.
Jesus meets us in mercy in these verses. He speaks to our toil, our work, and our tears. He acknowledges the weight of our burdens and reminds us there is relief in release. He shows us how to break free from the self appointed fixing we engage in so that the breaking does not overwhelm us.
He calls us to be His, to bear His burdens in order to also choose His rewards…because He overcame the curse, we are overcomers as well. ( 1 John 4:4)
Ultimately, this is a call to fellowship, to relationship with the One who knows our every need and collects our tears. We have to come to God.
We have to release our burdens into His faithful and capable hands. We have to cease to carry the weight that drags us low and take his yoke of gentle humility and merciful love, in order to be fed by His grace as we commune with Him. It is an active choice of faith.
As we choose to wait in His Word today, as we look to Him as the complete source of all our needs, as we admit that we are weary and we are in need of rest…remember to come right up to the throne of grace as Hebrews 4:16 reminds us to do, to obtain mercy and well-timed help in every area we are found wanting.
Praying for brave journeys today and willing hearts to let go of those weighty things that are hurting your hearts!
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