“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
In our hurried and harried world, is this not a promise we all clamor for? Rest! As I interacted with people this week, the friendly conversations would usually turn to plans for Thanksgiving. One young lady simply told me that her plan for Thanksgiving was to sleep all day! Rest! A gift we all crave.
But Jesus doesn’t just talk about physical rest in Matthew 11, He goes on to emphasize that it is “rest for your souls”. Soul rest, an even more significant and allusive need. The reality is that no matter how much physical rest one pursues, if your soul is restless, you will never be well rested.
I observe men recovering from long runs of drug and alcohol addiction. When they finally collapse into their bed in our recovery program, they cannot get enough sleep. And the reality is, while physical sleep is essential to a healthy life, there is not enough sleep to rest one’s soul.
Jesus says soul rest is found in, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart.” (Matthew 11:29) What? Soul rest found in taking on an instrument of work? A yoke? A yoke has been used for generations to link powerful beasts of burden (oxen or horses) to one another to pull vehicles, whether it be plows or wagons, in one common direction. This combines the strength of multiple animals into one uniform pulling machine.
A yoke does not sound, in any way, like a good instrument for rest, especially soul rest. It is interesting that Jesus’ offer of rest does not come with more sleep or a lengthy vacation, but being joined with Him in work. The key is being joined with Him. He even goes on to say in verse 30, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
My mother never learned to ride a bicycle. She was always very cautious, so the threat of a bike fall panicked her. But as my youngest sister grew up, her favorite recreation was to ride bikes, so dad would go bike riding with her. They would come back with incredible stories of beauty and adventure. And mom would yearn to participate and make this a full family activity. But while she longed for the family participation and the thrill of pedaling through scenic valleys with the wind whipping through her hair, her inability to ride left her behind.
Dad finally decided to get a tandem bicycle, so that mom could participate. While dad’s experience could steer, balance, and pedal the bike, mom could ride behind participating with pedaling but without the burden of balancing or steering. She could enjoy the thrill of riding and family adventure, while depending on the experience and skill of dad. To this day, my sister will share great memories of mom, dad, and her riding bikes throughout the gorgeous river valleys of Western Washington.
But mom’s “rest” was found in her ability to be yoked to my dad on that tandem bike. It was easy and light because of the one to whom she was linked.
You want to find the “soul rest” of a thrilling adventure, then yoke to Jesus for the ride of your life.
Tom Reynolds hails from the Pacific Northwest, and spent 25 years in full time ministry in California, Colorado, New Jersey, and Alabama. Today, Tom is the Executive Director of His Way.