Are you tired? I’m not just talking about fatigue from a poor night of sleep. I mean REALLY tired. Exhausted. Feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders kind of tired. Feeling overwhelmed or terribly inadequate for the endless work to be done. Wondering when life will get easier and better, but also believing such a life is not meant for you. Ugh.
Aren’t we all craving real rest? This morning I was reminded of familiar words about rest. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, “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.”
I’m no Bible scholar, but a few things stand out to me as I read this.
Notice the command: “Come to me.” Jesus hasn’t moved or left me behind. I moved. I need to come to him. Jesus is here for me now. Requires action on my part. I see it like this: Stop doing what you are doing now because it’s not working for you. You are tired – probably from working yourself to the bone to earn favor, acceptance, love, and rest. Stop it. Just come to Jesus. He knows we ALL are weary and burdened and tired. He offers us rest from it all. But how?
Verse 29 says, “Take my yoke upon you.” Not an egg yolk, duh. This yoke ties two oxen or horses together so they can plow the farmers field or pull a carriage. The yoke goes over the backs of the beasts so the burden is distributed more evenly between them.
The yoke doesn’t work when the beasts are of different sizes, because the burden is not equally distributed. So when you hear the expression “unequally yoked” in reference to relationships, this is what they are referring to. If a couple is not equal in their beliefs or world view, the relationship will be unnecessarily burdened and both people will suffer. I digress.
Jesus is saying we need to disconnect from the yoke of slavery from the burdens we carry on our own and connect to his yoke which is lighter and easier. Jesus offers to carry our burdens and lighten our load. Doesn’t that sound nice?
Instead, we are more like slaves to the burdens we carry. That’s right, I said slaves. The burdens are like chains that weigh us down. They have mastery over our moods and behavior. We surrender to the burdens like a prisoner or slave does to his master. But when we are connected to Jesus we learn his ways. We learn how to really “let go” of things that enslave us so we can live in peace and find rest.
Why do we look everywhere else for peace and rest? Books and lectures from motivational speakers don’t really help us here. Drugs and alcohol certainly won’t help us find rest. Risky behavior, gambling, porn, career, etc. don’t offer the real escape we desire from the burdens we all carry. Only Jesus can give us real rest.
It’s counter-intuitive to believe the answer is so easy. We expect it to be really hard. To get what we REALLY want (peace, rest, comfort, joy, love, acceptance, etc.) we believe we must work really hard to earn it. The lake house, the perfect spouse, the superhero physique, the dream job, you name it. These things will never satisfy. And all our striving for these things is like chasing the wind. The peace, rest, and love we desperately long for is right in front of us. Jesus is calling us to simply come to him.
I write this because it’s very personal to me – a journal entry from a while back. I share it here because I hope you will find encouragement and rest for your weary soul. I’m preaching to myself too. I’ve spent most of my life striving and working and trying to earn acceptance, approval, and rest. It’s utterly exhausting. And I fail so much! I still wrestle with a “performance mindset,” but I’m seeing the benefits of really letting go, answering Jesus’s call to come to him and surrender my will to his.
I’m telling you, it’s way better. It’s real freedom. Peace that surpasses understanding. Joy even. Yeah, life is still hard sometimes. There is still work to do and bad things to go through, but having Jesus with me through it all makes it so much easier. But you may not believe me. That’s OK. You probably won’t believe that being connected to Jesus is the best way to live until you try it for yourself. Jesus invites you to come to him. He will give you rest – and so much more. Will you answer his call?