Pastor's Blog

Soul Rest

Here we are in the month of March in the year of our Lord two thousand and twenty - already! How’s it going for you so far? While I hope you are doing well in the pursuit of your New Year’s resolutions (if you had the courage to make any), and that you have had some pleasant surprises thus far, I’ll bet if I asked how many of you are feeling behind schedule, under the gun or overwhelmed (or all of the above), I would see quite a show of hands.

As we head into this third month of the new year, possibly already searching for the pause or rewind button on the VCR of life (for those of you under 30, you can Google “VCR”), I would like to spend a few moments reflecting on the familiar words of Jesus recounted in Matthew’s gospel,

 “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,” (Matt. 11.28-30). 

 

Rest - what a concept! Not just physical rest or a good night’s sleep, but an overall sense of peace and well-being while facing the challenges of daily life seems like an illusion or an unattainable ideal - at least on any consistent basis. And yet, the invitation and the promise of Jesus is there - come to me and get the rest you are looking for - real rest, soul rest. 

The first thing I find interesting and unique about Jesus’ invitation is that he calls us to Himself - to a relationship - not to a program or an idea, and not to get more in touch with ourselves (in fact, Jesus challenges us to deny ourselves and to lose our lives in order to find them!). Jesus calls us to trust, follow and obey Him, with the promise that He will give us the rest we so desperately need.

I also find it compelling that Jesus’ promise of rest does not seem to have much or anything to do with taking a nap or a vacation (although I’m sure Jesus is not opposed to such things in their proper time). When Jesus says, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” we realize that real rest is not simply the absence of work or restraint. A  yoke is a tool for work, and a burden is something we carry. Rest comes as a result of humility before and obedience to God. Are we willing to admit our need for help, and are we willing to let Jesus set the agenda for our days? 

Think about it; How many times are we stressed out, confused and depressed due to overcommitment, overindulgence and a lack of boundaries in regard to relationships? Jesus calls us to follow Him so that He can teach us and lead us into appropriate relationships, healthy habits and realistic and life-giving work and service commitments. That doesn’t mean that life will always, or even regularly, be in some perfect balance, but it does mean that we will be facing the ups and downs of life in growing synchronicity with the leading of the Spirit of Jesus. And when life seems out of control and totally overwhelming, we will have greater confidence in the promise of God that He will never leave us or forsake us.

Finally, I find it revolutionary that in a cultural setting that prides itself on busyness, self-discovery and self-help, we discover that the rest that our souls desperately need, and deeply long for, is not something we get by our own efforts at slowing down, centering or taking days off - as helpful as those practices may be at times. Rather, the rest that Jesus promises - true rest, soul rest - is a gift of grace from God the Father, through Jesus the Son, by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Jesus says, “Come to me...and I wil give you rest.”

So, are we taking Jesus up on His invitation, or are we basically living day to day by our wits, whims and watches? Jesus never promises us that life will be easy. In fact, He promises just the opposite - that if we truly follow Him we will have challenges and opposition that we would not have if we just went with the flow of the culture around us. However, Jesus also tells us that He has all the power and all the time in the world for us! 

While true rest is a gift from God that we cannot obtain by our own efforts, there are things that we can do to help us disengage from the rat race of daily life and the demands of our own psyche, and position ourselves to receive the grace of rest that only Christ can give. In light of who Jesus is and what He has promised to you and me, then, let me encourage you to do whatever it takes to get in on the rest that He offers: Pause, pray, read his words, worship, give thanks in all things, hang out with other people that are pursuing Jesus and find places to serve others in His name. All of these activities are actually resources that will help us “come to” Him and find rest for our souls.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Scott