I look back over a year of roadblocks, missteps, failures, and frustrations.
I look ahead to a future shrouded in fear and uncertainty.
And all I want to do is sit down in the middle and cry.
Yet a nebulous sense of guilt keeps me from taking the rest I crave. The state of the world is so overwhelming: a global pandemic, a political battle, a fight for racial equality, an environmental tipping point. How dare I ask for rest? Surely all of these problems require me to do more, be more, act more, struggle more. Plus, I can’t stop when I know ten people who deserve a break more than I do.
So instead of asking for help, I just keep dragging my burdens along with me. No need to trouble Jesus over my pesky little problems! I tell myself.
Amid this charade, I open my Bible and read
“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, NIV).
These wise, comforting words hit me like a slap in the face. I come to Jesus in prayer every day, but I am still weary and burdened. I must be doing something wrong. If Jesus offers me rest, why do I feel so restless?
I wrestle with this question for months, until one day God brings this insight: Choosing to rest is an act of trust. In fact, there is something in the way that the word rest nearly nestles itself in trust that makes me think one is a part of the other. Entering God’s rest involves letting go of my imagined control over the details of my life (and the state of the world!) and trusting that He will lead and provide.
My arms can rest by my sides only if my hands release the reins to someone else. My mind can stop its anxious calculations, worries, and planning only if I truly believe that God is in control. My body can release its burdens only if I allow myself to be led.
When God led the Israelites through the wilderness, He insisted they stop and rest every seven days. They were desperate to reach the land God had promised them, but God deliberately slowed their progress. They finally reached their destination after 40 years of wandering. Do you think they were tempted to look back at the 2,080 days of Sabbath rest they took and imagine how nice it would have been to reach their goal five-and-a-half years earlier?
I know I would’ve been doing that mental math, because I make similar calculations once I commit to taking a Sabbath rest each week. It hurts my workaholic, consumeristic heart to lay aside my important tasks for twenty-four hours. When my mind strays to my “to do” list on the day of rest, I remind myself that the outcome is in God’s hands. His will shall be done no matter how I fill my time.
I am like a babe just learning to walk in this way of trust. I fight and buck against the yoke that is easy and the burden that is light. Some days I trust more in the terror I read in the news than in the truth of God’s Word. However, God doesn’t give up on me. Like a patient, loving parent, He keeps leading and guiding me.
With Saint Augustine, I am learning to press into the truth that “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless, until they find their rest in you.”
Alyson Rockhold writes from Houston, TX.