Rest for our souls

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

Oh, how we long for rest from the burdens of life.  For respite and relief from our problems and pain.  This passage gives us hope and comfort, yet we might also wonder about it.  We might feel a bit confused.  A yoke is undoubtedly a tool of work, one designed specifically for pulling heavy loads.  How can putting on Christ’s yoke offer us rest?

oxen
“Ready for Work” by Fred Lounsbury, 1907

Here are four ways:

1 — We find rest in His leadership.  Jesus is in control.  He is our Guide. We don’t have to forge our own path, blindly blundering about.  We simply walk alongside Christ on the path He has lovingly laid out for us.  We acknowledge that His ways are higher than our ways (Is. 55:8-9) — that we in ourselves don’t know the way but that He is The Way (John 14:6). We allow Him to take the lead, submitting to His will instead of ours.  When we do this, we find rest.

He leadeth me: O blessed thought!
O words with heavenly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be,
Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.
Candi Pearson-Shelton, He Leadeth Me

2 — We find rest in His presence.  Life can be confusing, dark, scary.  We might wonder at times why God seems to be leading us through the valley of the shadow of death.  But then, we are reminded:  we have yoked ourselves to Christ, and He will never leave us or forsake us!  Our Good Shepherd is with us always.  The darkness cannot overcome us when we’re walking with The Light.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,

for You are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
— Psalm 23:4

Be strong and courageous.
Do not fear or be in dread of them,
for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.
He will not leave you or forsake you.

— Deuteronomy 31:6

3 — We find rest in His strength.  Sometimes we might feel that living life — particularly the life of a Christian — is too heavy of a burden. And the truth is: it is too heavy.  On our own.  It is precisely because of our human frailties (in particular our sin, but also our weakness), that we must fasten ourselves to Christ.  In one of his sermons*, Adam Noles said:

The problem we often face in our Christian lives is that we are trying to carry all the load on our own backs. We trust in our own perseverance, our own grit and hard work, our own ability to bear the load… [This leaves us] worn out, discouraged, and weary in our service to Jesus. But Jesus invites us not to carry his yoke by ourselves… [but to let Him] shoulder the load with us.

So, the weight of living out God’s will is spread out on two backs instead of one.  Note that this partnership is not one of equals.  Jesus is infinitely stronger than we are.  He is God; we are not.  Christ’s strength can more than cover our weaknesses. When we yoke ourselves to the Almighty and lean on His limitless strength, we find rest.

He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
— Isaiah 40:29

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

— Psalm 73:26

4 — We find rest in His promises.  “Come to me… and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you… and you will find rest for your souls.”  These are promises!  Every word of God is true (Prov. 30:5).  We can know that yoking ourselves to Jesus brings us rest — both in the here and now and in eternity:

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.  Let us therefore strive to enter that rest…
— Hebrews 4:9-11a

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new…”
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.
And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.
Revelation 21:1-5a, 22-23

 

Dear Lord —
our Guide,
our Strength,
our Immanuel, God with us —

our Lamb,
our Lamp,
our Light —

We love you.
We choose you.
May we yoke ourselves to you each day
And let us never leave.

 

 

* You can listen to Adam’s sermon on this topic here.  It is an excellent one.

 

Header photo:  Brooke Campbell via Unsplash

“Ready for work” photograph:
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs:
Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “Ready For Work.” The New York
Public Library Digital Collections.
1907.
http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-418e-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

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