A little over a week ago I went on an amazing vacation with my wife. We got to go on a cruise to the Caribbean and see some the most beautiful water and beaches that I have ever seen. We were able to unplug from our normal lives and responsibilities and sit in chairs underneath an umbrella, snorkel and swim with sea turtles, and stand/swim in the clearest ocean imaginable. We got to check out for a week from work and life and the experiences of setback, disappointments, discouragements and exhaustion. It was a great and needed time of rest.
That experience has thrust my mind into overdrive on the topic of rest because it only took a few days of being back from vacation to realize it was over. Everything we left behind was here waiting on our return to Milledgeville. As the longing for chairs, umbrellas and beaches invaded my mind the Holy Spirit began to do work in my soul and remind me that my rest at the beach and on a cruise ship were things that should point me to something greater and man oh man I’ve been needing something greater!
I was reminded of Matthew 11:28-29 where 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.” I have read this passage before and heard preachers use it in sermons but if I am honest it has always seemed a bit cliche to me. “Oh you're tired and drained….just look to Jesus and everything will get better.” The million dollar question is HOW. Maybe you're reading this and you have wondered the same things. How is Jesus going to help me with the difficulty I am facing? How can Jesus give me rest when I work my job, I work at home and I serve at church? How in the world can Jesus give me rest when a relationship is crumbling right in front of me or when I feel so alone? When disappointment and discouragement seem to be my food how can Jesus give me rest? I hope what you read next will encourage you as much as it has me.
If you are like me, when you read that passage, you focus on “rest.” It seems to be the big theme and it is certainly what I want the most. But go back and read it again carefully. Notice what Jesus says after “rest.” He says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. Now go up to the verse before these, verse 27. Jesus says, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” What Jesus is telling us is that through Him the object of rest is revealed! That object is God, knowing Him and what He has done. Our issue is that sin blinds us to the knowledge and truth of God and therefore it robs us of rest. Our resting or lack of resting is always attached to an object or a circumstance it seems. Just think about the opening paragraph of this blog post. I found a sense of rest looking at a beach and water. I found a sense of rest sitting in a chair underneath an umbrella. Vacation was great because I wasn’t focused on the setbacks, disappointments, discouragements and exhaustion. I was focused on naps with the sound of waves in the background. I was focused on coming and going as I pleased instead of deadlines or meetings. When my focused shifted so did my rest and joy.
As believers who are in the world (that’s right you don’t become and Christian and then get immediately removed from this planet and taken to heaven) there are so many objects and circumstances that rival for our time and attention. We have work and family obligations and responsibilities….bills to pay and groceries to buy. Real life and the many objects and circumstances it can throw our way can quickly become the main things that we look at and obsess over and when that happens the anxiety, anger, depression and frustration can settle in and that’s when the restlessness settles into our heart, mind and soul. For example when you have applied for a promotion and are waiting to hear what will happen you can become restless. When a relationship is strained and someone doesn’t like you as much or at all you may be up all night worried about it.
But in Christ there is a better way; a way to joy and true resting. In Jesus we are shown God and through the gospel we are shown the great things He has done for us to save us. When I preach the gospel to myself or others preach it to me I am confronted by God, who is great, good, glorious and gracious. I can see His tremendous beauty and glory and it overwhelms me. This isn’t a foreign concept at all. When I walked the beaches of Barbados I was overwhelmed by how amazing they were. In the gospel I can see that even as a sinner I am the object of His eternal affection and that God went to the greatest length and paid the highest price to save me from sin and make me His own. In those moments when I am hearing the gospel I am learning from Jesus and I am being shown my Heavenly Father and that is when I find the rest my soul so desperately longs for.
Now when real life happens and my circumstances are not what I wish they were; when I feel restless and weary and completely out of control, I can find rest and so can you! We can look to Jesus and the glorious work of the gospel on our behalf and find that place of value, security, peace, belonging and great meaning. We can bask in the radian’t light of His glory and we can rest underneath the shadow of His wings. Jesus is rest for the weary!