Genuine rest is something that people in our culture are seeking more and more, yet they are finding less and less of it. We have every convenience imaginable, every kind of time saving device, but we are still tired. This tiredness is more than just lacking in the sleep department, rather, it is a tiredness of the soul. In Matthew 11, Jesus speaks directly to all those who are experiencing this deep-seated tiredness:
All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 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 11:27-30 ESV)
Here Jesus makes the bold claim that he alone can provide the kind of rest that we seek. Soul exhaustion is not something that can be cured by a couple of weeks in Jamaica. It cannot be solved by external means because it is not an external problem. What drives us to soul exhaustion is the “heavy burden” of sin and the “labour” of trying to live with a clear conscience, or trying to impress God by our own virtue. Sin is incredibly exhausting because it is a constant chase after something that it can never deliver. Sin promises rest and satisfaction, but always leads to further frustration and thus, further tiredness. It also leads us trying desperately to cover up for ourselves so that no one else will know how bad we really are – how exhausting!
Likewise, trying to impress God by our works can only lead to soul exhaustion. We can strive, work, try harder, yet our hearts are never at rest as long as we are trying to find our rest in our performance. We can never do enough, and so we are never at rest. We may be striving to know the Father, and will never be at rest because only Jesus (the Son) reveals the Father to those he chooses.
Jesus’ solution to our soul exhaustion is based on a personal relationship with him. He says “Come to me”. Notice, Jesus does not say “come to my system”, or “come to my set of rules”, no, if we desire rest for our souls it can only begin with a personal relationship with Jesus – coming to him for all that he is. As we come to Jesus, He calls us to join him in his work. A “yoke” is what is used to join two oxen together so that they can pull in the same direction. It is interesting to see that the rest Jesus offers is tied to work. Jesus says, come to me, bind yourself to me, and join me in my work, and only then will you find the rest your soul is looking for. We ultimately find rest in doing what we were made to do. We were made for God, so we can only find our rest in him (Augustine).
Genuine rest is what we are all seeking. All too often we look to things which cannot provide it. We look for rest in our fancy vacation, in our bank accounts, in our relationships, in food and drink. We can look in thousands of directions for the rest our souls crave. However we will only find this rest when we have joined ourselves to Christ in his work, knowing that his perfect work for us is already completed. We are free from working to impress God because Jesus’ perfection is already credited to those who have faith in him. Now we are free to walk along side Jesus, to learn from him, and to find the genuine soul rest that can be found nowhere else.
Where are you seeking your rest?