Come to Me
“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” –Matthew 11:28
The Oxford Dictionary defines restas: “to cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength.”
The discipline of rest is important; we see it repeatedly in Scripture. Our Heavenly Father modeled the act of resting in Genesis 2:2–3. God commands His children to rest on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8–11). The land was to enjoy a rest from all planting and cultivating of crops (Leviticus 25:3–4). Jesus advocated for His disciples to find a place away from the crowds (Mark 6:30–31). Jesus Himself modeled the discipline of rest (Luke 4:42, 5:16, Mark 1:35, and Matthew 14:23).
Resting is not passive; there is much going on that is unseen.
During physical rest, our muscles repair; our brain sorts, processes, and stores memories; hormones rise and fall; and our immune system activates to fight inflammation and infection. During winter dormancy, perennial plants strengthen cell membranes and remake proteins to prepare for regrowth in the spring.
Indeed, Jesus’ example of consistently withdrawing to a quiet place was not solely for physical restoration but for the all-important spiritual restoration that only comes through spending time with the Father. When we practice and prioritize the discipline of rest at the feet of Jesus, we receive the spiritual refreshing, strengthening, and equipping we need to engage whatever we may experience next on our faith journey.
What specifically must we do to experience this rest?
We must come to Jesus. Jesus does not command us to come. He does not force us to experience this rest; rather, He extends an invitation, a welcoming, a warm bidding, to come find rest. This requires action on our part—forward movement to draw near to Jesus and a willing spirit to receive the rest that He offers.
The Oxford Dictionary gives an additional definition for rest: “to be placed or supported so as to stay in a specified position.” Jesus never declared that He would remove all burdens from our lives. In fact, many places in Scripture indicate the exact opposite. What Jesus does, in the verses that follow, is invite us to take up His yoke.
While visiting Mackinac Island, my husband and I rented a primitive tandem bicycle. I label it “primitive” because there were no gears, which means we would not be able to change into a higher gear to make it easier to pedal up hills or when biking into the wind. My husband and I are fairly avid cyclists, but this was a whole new experience.
My husband was seated in front, and I sat behind him. The first fifteen minutes of our ride were awkward and frustrating. I had to learn to relinquish control of steering and trust my husband to see the road ahead, steering us along a safe route. I also had to learn to fall into rhythm with my husband’s pedaling cadence. Pedaling at my own speed only promoted a slow, clumsy, and laborious ride. However, once I managed to release my control and fall into his rhythm, we propelled forward with ease; the steepest hills and oncoming wind were now not so intimidating.
Likewise, Jesus does not say He will take away our burdens, but like my experience falling into rhythm on a tandem bicycle, when we position ourselves to be yoked with Jesus and fall into rhythm with His leading, our burdens become light. The road ahead is not so intimidating, and we find rest as we spend time in His presence.
Enjoy God’s Good Gifts
“How is it with your soul?” I have not had the courage to ask this question of others, but it does come to mind as I see the hurried and worried expressions on people’s faces and in their posture. We live in a culture of information overload and 24-7 connectivity, and we are exhausted. Depleted. Numb.
As God’s representatives in this world, we must resist “third soil” culture. If you are familiar with Jesus’ parable of the sower, the third kind of soil was full of thorns that choked the growing plants and made them unfruitful. The worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth are cited as thorns in one’s life (see Matthew 13:1-23).
So, perhaps another question must be asked, “How is it with your soil?” What is taking up space in my life that is hindering the fruitfulness of the gospel and my witness to the world? Jon Tyson, in his book Beautiful Resistance, wonders if perhaps this is why the church lacks credibility in our world. “Maybe we are just too tired to model agape love, too scheduled to show compassion, too distracted to pray, too much like the exhausted culture around us” (pg. 49).
I have good news for us all: Jesus offers the invitation, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take me yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28). We are all yoked to something. We are yoked to the pace of our culture, or we are yoked to Him (Tyson, pg. 48). There is another way to live. God extends an invitation to 24-6 living. Take a day to rest—Sabbath. This is God’s gift to an exhausted human race.
When I was a child, Sundays—what I was taught as Sabbath—were less than pleasurable. In fact, I thought they were boring. My focus was on all the things I couldn’t do on that day. I did not see Sabbath as a good gift from God.
Now, as an adult seeking respite from a loud, busy world, I embrace this good gift! God invites me to receive whatever will restore my soul and de-thorn my soil. On some Sabbaths, I enjoy a luxurious nap. At other times, I take a leisurely walk, taking photos of what catches my eye in nature, enjoying simply being with Him. I’m invited to feast on beauty in nature or art or literature. I’m invited to linger over a good book or around a table, feasting on friendships and good food. I love this word picture: “On the Sabbath, we are reminded that Christians are called to order desserts and laugh till it hurts” (Tyson, pg. 57). Not all Sabbaths occur on Sunday, but I am better equipped to represent Him well when I receive His invitation to 24-6 living.
Receive from God what will restore your soul. Ask Him to help you remove thorns from your soil. Delight in the goodness of God. Find rest.