How do we find rest for our souls?
“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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Things in life can weigh us down. Sometimes the weariness we feel and the burdens we carry are of our own making — a result of own mistakes and failures. Sometimes they are through no-one’s fault — things that just happen to us through the circumstances of life. And sometimes we are weighed down by others and burdened by their own needs and wants. But, Jesus says to us, “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” and this message from Jesus is both inclusive and unconditional.
Jesus does not say to us, “Come to me those who attend church on a Sunday morning,” or, “Come to me only if you are a balding, ex-pat, Anglican priest,” (thank God). Neither does he say, “Come to me those of you who have got your act together,” or, “Come to me those who are deserving of my rest.” No, Jesus invites all of us, and the invitation is both inclusive and unconditional. He simply calls all who have a need — those who are weary and burdened.
Jesus also says, “I will give you rest.” He does not say, “I might give you rest if you are lucky,” or, “I will give you some rest.” No, Jesus promises rest to those who come to him.
Now, when someone promises you something you want to know four things: Firstly, are they able to deliver on their promise? Secondly, do they have your best interests at heart? Thirdly, do they know what you need? And, fourthly, are they reliable?
For example, if I have a leak under my sink then I will call a plumber, but I want to know that the plumber has the skills to fix my leak; I want to know they are not going to rip me off; I want them to know what my needs are in terms of the correct fittings to use; and I want to know they are going to turn up on time!
So what about this promise from Jesus, that if we come to him he will give us rest? Well, the one who extends this invitation is God himself. What he promises, he is able to deliver! The one who extends this invitation loves us more than we can possibly imagine. We do not need to be afraid but can trust him because he has our best interests at heart. The one who extends this invitation knows us. He knew us before we were born. He has been with us for every second of our lives. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and he knows exactly what we need. And, finally, the one who extends this invitation never breaks his word. We can depend on the confidence of his promise for he is reliable.
Jesus tells us, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” A yoke is a wooden bar or frame for joining two cattle that rests across their shoulders. The purpose of the yoke is not to keep the animals together, but so that they are able to support each other. If one animal gets weary or feels the burden of the plough, then the other animal is able to carry the weight and support them. Jesus wants to do this for us. He wants us to be yoked to him, for he is stronger than us — and we learn from Jesus that this strength is gentleness and humility.
Think about this for a moment. The world respects people who are strong, powerful, and mighty, however when you are depressed, low, struggling, or in need of support or a shoulder to cry on, you want someone who is approachable and caring, and whose strength is gentleness and humility.
This invitation from Jesus is an invitation to receive rest for our souls — something for which we desperately long — however, it is not just rest in the sense that we will simply have some down-time. No, it is an all-embracing peace that pervades every facet of our hearts, bodies, minds, and emotions, and we find that rest by coming to Jesus and leaning on him. It is a rest from fear of our own mistakes, of judgement, of the future, of evil, and of death. It is a supernatural rest from our afflictions — a peace that transcends all understanding — as Jesus bears our burdens across his shoulders.
This invitation from Jesus is not a worldly offer, where there is cost to us, or where repayment is expected. It is God’s free gift to all who are weary and burdened. In John’s gospel, Jesus says, “I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
This week, if you are weary or heavy-laden, come to Jesus, for it is in him that you will find rest for your souls.