Many go through life exhausted, craving rest for their physical body while others are longing for rest for their inner life, their soul (their mind and emotions). Still others are searching for spiritual rest and redemption, spiritual rebirth, and transformation. Jesus has invited you into a personal relationship with Him. A life-saving friendship you enter weary and heavy-hearted where you find deep, lasting peace and rest. It sounds too good to be true.
Author and pastor, Dane Ortlund, in his book Gentle & Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers, explains Jesus’ invitation is for people who are “spiritually, emotionally and physically depleted: the discouraged, the frustrated, the weary, the disenchanted, the cynical, the empty. Those running on fumes. Those who feel like they are constantly running up a descending escalator.”
Jesus’ invitation is for people who are “feeling failure, shame, and hopelessness. Those who think: How could I mess up this bad – again? God’s patience with me is wearing thin. I know God loves me, but I believe I have deeply disappointed him. I may have shipwrecked my life beyond repair. I’ve permanently diminished my usefulness to the Lord. I’ve been swept off my feet by perplexing pain and I am wondering how I can keep living under such numbing darkness.”
Do these paragraphs describe you? Then I have good news for you.
You Are Invited to Share Jesus’ Life
Can you put aside what you have heard or believe about religion for a moment, and listen to Jesus’ voice from his biographies in the Bible? His clear intention is to give you a different kind of life, a deeply satisfying, peaceful, joyful, meaningful life.
You don’t have to wait until the end. I am, right now. Resurrection and life. – John 11:25
I came so that (people) can have real life and eternal life, more and better than they ever dreamed of. – John 10:10
Take a moment and read a personal invitation from Jesus to you. I have quoted it from three different, dependable, translations of the Bible, so you can see Jesus’ heart for you.
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. – Matthew 11:28-30 ESV
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. – Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. – Matthew 11:28-30 The Message
Unpacking Jesus’ Invitation
Jesus invites you to come to him when you are weary and burdened
Jesus invites you into a relationship with him even when you are in a world of hurt and mess. He does not expect you to get cleaned up, dressed up, or fixed up. You do not have to wear a fake smile or pretend to be holier than you are. You are invited to come with your baggage, your issues, your addictions, your sin, and suffering, with whatever weighs you down.
Jesus has come to you and invites you into his rest when you feel heavy-hearted, tired, worn out, and burned out. It’s your job to accept his invitation and move to meet him. As you surrender to his leadership and trust his care for you, “Cast all your anxiety upon Him because He cares for you” 1 Peter 5:7.
Jesus invites you to share His yoke
A yoke is a heavy crossbar laid on oxen to force them to drag farming equipment through the field. With the yoke in place, the oxen walk together, side by side and in tandem. To wear the yoke, the animals must submit to the yoke. The animals cannot go where they want to go, and they are made to work together. This does not sound like very much fun. It sounds like forced labor.
The irony of Jesus’ invitation is that he is inviting you to forced labor that is easy and light. When you are yoked to him, he sets the pace and does the heavy lifting. You must give up control and independence. If you move too slowly you get dragged along and if you move too quickly you are straining but not moving forward. If you do not move in tandem with Jesus, the stronger oxen, you will experience chafing, pain, and struggle.
But when you move in tandem with Jesus, your yoke is easy, and your burden is light. In your work, you find rest for your soul. When Jesus offers you His yoke, he is offering you a side-by-side relationship to help you move through the fields of your life.
If you choose to yoke yourself to something or someone else that promises to be easier, or seems more attractive, inevitably they will rub you the wrong way. You will become overwhelmed, burdened, weighed down, and exhausted.
Wearing the yoke with Jesus will bring rest to your soul
The greatest benefit from being yoked to Jesus is that you will have rest for your soul. When an oxen pair wears the yoke, one of the oxen takes the lead and wears the extent of the yoke so that the smaller, less trained, and perhaps younger ox will have a lighter load. The result for you is you are working side by side by Jesus but not carrying the full weight of the load.
He carries your weight, your issues, your problems, and your anxieties. He bears the weight of your sins and your mistakes. He bears the burden of your past life so you can be free to live. He will carry what you cannot. This is good news. Living this way is easy and light. Easy does not mean life is free of pain or hardship but it means Jesus will go through life with you.
The yoke requires a process of learning
Jesus says, “learn from me.” Learning is a process that takes time and patience, trial and error. You see how he walks, and you learn to walk with him. When Jesus invites you into a relationship, you have an opportunity to practice his way of life and take on his priorities. You learn to pray, trust, be in the Word, be generous, persevere, suffer, love, and forgive.
You learn how to face fears, uncertainty, betrayals, disappointments, and unanswered prayers. You learn how to resist temptation and overcome obstacles. The ground is uneven and there are hills. As you walk in step with Jesus you are trained. He trains your soul. Matched up with him side by side you learn the rhythm of his life.
You learn how to do life. Even though the work is hard, you have rest for your soul. It’s easy to get out of step with Jesus. Sometimes you try and push ahead before he wants you to. Sometimes you lag behind when he is ready to walk. You learn how to wait and move when you wear the yoke of Jesus.
Jesus is “gentle and humble” in heart
Although Jesus has the authority of Almighty God, he refers to himself as gentle and lowly/humble in heart. He invites you not with a heavy-handedness but with gentleness and humility. As we bow before him, he stoops to be near us. He is the King, but we are his children, and he invites us into his presence.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, it was not on a battle stallion, but rather “coming to you humble and riding on a donkey” (Matthew 21:5, Zechariah 9:9). Jesus was meek but not weak and to his followers he says, “the meek will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). He wants us to imitate his humility for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (2 Chronicles 26:5).
Jesus is approachable, interruptible, and accessible to us. He is also holy, powerful, and worthy of our praise and worship. There will be a time when “Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10-11). As he invites us to be with him, it is the invitation of our closest, most trusted friend.
How To Enjoy Rest with Jesus
Let me share a couple of practical suggestions on how you can enjoy a time of rest and refreshment with Jesus.
Take a Day of Rest – Have a Sabbath Experience
The idea of a Sabbath day set aside for rest, worship, and time with God was a commandment God gave the Jewish people in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word for Sabbath, Shabbat, simply means to stop. God’s command to stop work on the Sabbath protected workers, animals, and the land from being overworked. It also provided a day to worship God and enjoy family relationships.
Jewish writer, Abraham Joshua Heschel in The Sabbath beautifully describes God’s design for the Sabbath, “Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to someone else.”
Many committed Jews today observe a Sabbath on Saturday, and many Christians celebrate a Sabbath on Sunday. However, few Christians, who attend a Sunday morning worship service, cease from work, or enter into Jesus’ invitation to rest. Sundays are usually spent attending kid’s sporting events, finishing home projects, getting caught up with work, shopping, enjoying recreation and time with friends, and watching television. There is no time for rest.
The spirit behind Sabbath is grace. The Sabbath was given as a gift to humanity by a loving creator who knew we wouldn’t rest on our own. Rich Villodas, The Deeply Formed Life, says “As with God’s grace, rest is never a reward, it’s a gift.”
The Sabbath, as a day of rest, was designed to be life-sustaining and joyful, not a life-constraining burden – as it was for many people in Jesus’ day. Jesus is waiting with outstretched arms to renew our friendship. Sabbath is meant to be a time of rest and a time enjoying Jesus.
Enjoying a regular Sabbath experience with Jesus changes the way we do the rest of our week. Walter Brueggemann in Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now says “People who keep Sabbath live all seven days differently.” By making time with Jesus a priority, we are putting ourselves in a posture to hear from him and adjust to his direction for our lives.
Your decision to practice Sabbath is one of your most important acts of faith. Your decision not to practice Sabbath is a stunning act of unfaith. It essentially, says, “Well, I have to run my world. I cannot count on God.” Dallas Willard, A Call to Silence, Dallas Willard Ministries YouTube Channel)
I recommend you not take a legalistic approach to keeping the Sabbath but enjoy the Sabbath as a gift from God. For those who work on weekends, set another day or part of a day for rest, refreshment, and a relationship with God. Jesus was criticized by the Jewish religious leaders for allowing his disciples to glean food on the Sabbath.
He responded to them “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” Mark 2:27, 28. Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath. In other words, whenever you spend time with Jesus, it is a Sabbath experience.
Three Big Questions about Rest for You:
- What will you stop doing to enjoy a Sabbath rest?
- What will you start doing to maximize my Sabbath experience?
- What will you do during your Sabbath time to draw close to God?
Take a Technology Fast – Get Unplugged
Burnout has become an official clinical syndrome, according to the World Health Organization. Characterized by mental, physical, and/or emotional exhaustion, this condition of chronic stress threatens millions of Americans who face long work hours, demanding work and home situations, and little time for rest.
In a society and culture where busyness is the norm, technology keeps us constantly connected and occupied, and leisure is viewed as laziness, you often end up feeling techno-tired.
Technology is beneficial but it is also exhausting. When you are plugged in 24-7 there is a constant bombardment of communication. Your phone clutters your mind with too much data from non-important sources. Minute by minute you receive sound bites, messages, posts, tweets, sports alerts, notifications, and updates.
There is hardly a minute that goes by where your phone isn’t saying, “Look at me, I am important.” You might be fully plugged in but feeling empty, devoid of deep and meaningful relationships.
In the words of Matthew, “you are yoked” to your phone. Jesus invites you to disconnect from technology for a techno- fast and connect with him in a personal relationship. To separate from your phone, you may have to keep it locked in another room.
Be prepared to deal with your FOMO syndrome (Fear Of Missing Out) and your FOMKMO syndrome (Fear Of My Kids Missing Out). You will have come to peace with the reality that for a while you may be left out and your kids may be left out. The thought of “I am being left out and my kids are being left out” can be painful for some people to deal with.
Jesus successfully separated from the culture around him to have focused time with his heavenly Father. He invited his disciples into his time of rest.
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So, they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. – Mark 6:30-32
When you spend time learning from Jesus, you are not ruled by the clock, your phone, or the tyranny of the urgent. Jesus reminds us that God can handle all the concerns of the world while we are resting.
Three Big Questions for You
- How has the fast pace of technology and the movement of culture helped you and hurt you?
- How will you unplug this week?
- How will you create an environment where your body and soul can rest from technology?
As you organize your life to include Sabbath experiences and techno-fasting, you will discover the real, abundant life Jesus has for you. You will discover greater meaning and purpose in your life. You will be able to embrace Jesus’ invitation to rest. Pause for a moment and consider Jesus’ invitation to you. Will you accept the invitation?
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. – Matthew 11:28-30
This is the third article in a series on Practicing Good Self-Care. In article one, we learned how to experience Bio-Psycho-Social-Sexual-Spiritual Wholeness. In article two, we considered how to Practice Good Self-Care in a Hurry Up Culture. If you would like an experienced guide to help you learn how to practice good self-care, please contact me, or any of the other gifted therapists at Seattle Christian Counseling.
“Praying Man”, Courtesy of Fray Bekele, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Woman with Hat”, Courtesy of Peter Kokhanets, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “In the Word”, Courtesy of Bethany Laird, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Smiling Woman”, Courtesy of Anthony Metcalfe, Unsplash.com, CC0 License