Driven by duty, or led by love? It makes a difference.
“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” Matthew 11:28-30.
Am I the only one who has had a problem with those verses? The Christian life as rest – what? An easy yoke and a light burden? Experience told me otherwise.
Until life crumbled and weakness won out. Until I could no longer keep up with the “good girl” life. Until everything I believed came unraveled. (To read about my journey, click here.)
In that place of weakness, with crumbled faith and nothing to offer God, I experienced rest. The God of rest came to me and picked me up. He gathered me in His arms and carried me close to His heart (see Isaiah 40:11). And there, near His heart, I began to learn from Him. And I found rest for my soul.
I had spent my life driven to do. Do more. Do better. Just keep doing. He deserves my best, after all. But the doing was never enough because I knew that Jesus had said heart motives were just as important as actions (see Matt 5:20-22, 27-28). I could never measure up. How could this possibly be rest?
But I learned, there near His heart, that God does not drive His children to do. We are not cattle prodded along a path, a destination to be reached by morning. Instead, He leads us as a shepherd leads his sheep (Ps 23). The shepherd guides them beside still waters. He gives them green pastures in which to rest.
In fact, the Hebrew word here for lead carries the connotation of guiding to a place of rest and refreshment. It means to lead with care. In Exodus 15:13, we read, “In Your unfailing love You will lead the people You have redeemed. In Your strength You will guide them to Your holy dwelling.” He leads us with unfailing love. And did you catch where He is guiding us? To His “dwelling.” To His presence. Into deeper intimacy and friendship. He is not trying to get us somewhere. He is bringing us near. That’s where He is leading us. Closer.
Our Shepherd has a loving relationship with His sheep. He knows each of us by name. And the sheep know and trust His voice (John 10:3-18), because we walk with Him. The picture is one of sweet companionship.
In the opening passage from Matthew, Jesus uses another word picture to describe our relationship with Him. He invites us into His “yoke.” He shares our burdens with us. He’s not the farmer driving the oxen. He’s in the yoke working with us. We find rest as we learn from Him. As we keep in step with Him.
This Christian life is not lived for Him. It’s lived by Him – He leads; we follow (John 10:3-5). He empowers; we walk in victory (Col 1:11, Rom 8:37). He works in us; our lives please Him (Phil 2:13). Our job is to rest – in who He is and what He has done for us. Our work is abide in Him and let Him bear fruit through us (John 15:4-5).
What does resting in Jesus look like in your life? Any practical tips for resting when life is anything but restful? I’d love to hear your thoughts!