Rest for Weary Souls


[Jesus said,] “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.” (Mt. 11:28-30)

I think that there are a lot of weary people in our corner of the world. People are tired because they are in a stage of life where both parents are working, the children are involved in numerous activities and all the running leaves one exhausted. People are tired because health challenges or grief has stricken them and it is wearing them out. People are tired because of all the terrible things that are happening in the world these days. It drains our emotions when we merely try to figure out what to think and how to respond to these events. We are weary and overwhelmed.

And in the middle of all this, Jesus says to us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

In response, we might think to ourselves, “Come on, Jesus! Let’s be realistic. You don’t understand the situation I’m in.” But Jesus understands perfectly. He knows, not only because, as God, he knows all things, but also because he is human and he has lived a human life just like ours.

So why is there such a huge gap between the promise of Jesus’ words and our reality? In his next words, Jesus says, “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.” In the ancient near east, where Jesus lived and taught, the “yoke” of a rabbi was his teaching. To take upon oneself the yoke of a rabbi meant living by what the rabbi taught.

So what did Jesus teach? Here Jesus teaches that he is gentle and humble in heart. Do we really believe that? Far too many of us, including myself, live as if God is a demanding taskmaster who requires us to fulfill an endless list of requirements before we can experience any rich, full, abundant life with Jesus. We understand that our salvation is a free gift, but then we revert to trusting in human effort to obtain the peace, joy and rest that Jesus promises.

That approach will never work. Not only is it certain to fail, it is spiritually damaging to us and those around us.

Jesus has not only done everything to take away our sin, bring us into the family of God and give us eternal life with him—which is the starting point of our life with God. Jesus also does everything necessary to live our life with God from that starting point all the way throughout eternity.

What needs to stop is our own personal striving. Instead, we give our life to Jesus and we invite him to live his life through us. Whatever needs to be done, we trust that he will do this through us. And we rest in him.

This is the yoke of Jesus. And our only burden is to live as if it is really true, which it is.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, please help me to stop my personal striving. I give my life to you. Please come and live your life in and through me. Amen.

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