Gotta go to work. Gotta get the kids picked up. Gotta get dinner…meeting tonight …Why did you wait till 8:30 to tell me you needed that tomorrow? Out we go again…Kids finally in bed, thank God, now I can get to that paperwork… It can’t be THAT late already? Better set the alarm LOUD, I’ll never get up in time tomorrow…
Most of us don’t get enough rest. We are a world of underslept, under-relaxed, under-vacationed people. We know this about ourselves, but we still can’t seem to fix it. Every day brings new tasks, and we just keep going.
Until we get sick. Or have heart attacks. Or break down physically, emotionally, mentally. We aren’t made for this—running 24/7, 365 days a year. We need down time. We need rest. But where can we find it?
A Matter of Priorities
It often has to do with screwed-up priorities. We mean well, of course. We try to keep first things first, and second things second, and so on and so forth. But somehow the important gives way to the urgent, and we find ourselves at the end of another long week, wondering: How did I get here without doing what I intended—without spending time with my family—without taking “me” time—with hardly any time spent on the ideals I say are so important to me? Where did all the time go?
So we resolve to do better. And we might even succeed for a couple of days. But it catches up to us again, and we’re back in the same old trap. How can we find rest?
Come to Me
In the face of all this, Jesus breaks in and says this to everybody:
“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 11:28-30)
On the face of it, this might sound weird. What exactly was Jesus offering to the people who heard him? And is that offer still good today?
We can rule out the obvious. He wasn’t going to do all their chores, or babysit their children, or even provide them with enough money to hire people to do that stuff for them. To the best of our knowledge, nobody ever thought that was what he was offering.
But he also wasn’t offering some sort of practical advice or tidbits of wisdom—like those self-help articles with headlines like “Six Easy Ways to Get Control of Your Life (You’ll Be Amazed by Number Three!)” In fact, self-help was about as far from what Jesus was offering as you can possibly get.
What He Meant
What Christians understand Jesus to be saying is this: “Here I am. I am yours—the person you were meant to belong to, the one who really understands you and cares about you. When you are apart from me, you are living life backwards—you are going against the grain of reality, and that’s not good for you. I love you. I want to see you healthy and peaceful. I want to give you rest—the real rest that can only come from being in tune with the universe, the way God meant you to be from the beginning. If you come to me and put yourself under my direction, you will have that rest, that peace. And I am gentle and kindhearted—I will not abuse you. Don’t be afraid. Put your trust in me, and see what happens.”
As Christians, we believe that Jesus is still alive and still making everybody this same offer—anyone who wants it. And we can testify from our own experience that he is telling the truth. It really IS different, living under Jesus’ direction. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, our lives start to take on a new shape. Our priorities get better (though not perfect! We still make mistakes) and we learn to pay attention to what is really important and let the other stuff go.
We also start enjoying life more—looking at each day as a gift from God, something to appreciate and take pleasure in. It makes a difference, knowing that the good things we have—a beautiful sunrise, a cup of coffee, a joke with a friend—were all intended by somebody, someone who loves us. They aren’t accidents. They are gifts.
To be sure, some of us learn to live this way more quickly than others. Sometimes it looks like we are pushing Jesus’ gifts back into his hands—as if we’re so used to being stressed out we can’t handle anything different! We mess up. But the offer is still there, and it’s real. Not just for us, but for anyone who wants to take it.
But, But, But…
Does this mean that Jesus is somehow going to step in and magically stop all the chaos? Not necessarily. He isn’t offering to do voodoo on your life. He’s offering you a brand new life—one that is balanced, straightened out, more in tune with the way reality works. That might mean that certain things will end or change. It might mean he helps YOU to end or change them. It might mean the “things” continue—but you are better able to cope with them. And chances are good that whatever he does, it will take time—like pretty much all growth. But those of us who’ve been there can testify, it’s worth it.
“But everything will fall apart if I rest!”
You know, that might be true. But falling apart isn’t always a bad thing. And you might be pleasantly surprised—others might step up to the plate and deal with the burdens you are currently carrying, or at least start to help. Or maybe not. I don’t know, you don’t know—but Jesus does know. It’s a challenge, trusting all this stuff into his hands, desperately important as it is to you. But that’s the invitation Jesus offers. Because he cares about you. And he cares about the people and situations you may be dealing with, too.
“But I am so weary and I don’t feel rested. How do I go back and keep facing my responsibilities?”
This is a hard one. If you possibly can, get some sleep. Take your vitamins. Eat something nourishing. Get some (gentle) exercise, if you haven’t been—maybe a walk. Do a crossword puzzle, watch a movie, or do something else that gives you pleasure. Take care of your body so it can go on helping you take care of stuff.
And then—take Jesus up on his offer. He can help even when nobody else can. He’s the only reason the author of this article made it through several hard times in my life when there was just way, WAY too much to cope with.