In our continuing journey through the alphabet in our Alphabet of Faith series the letter “R” is next. Lots of good choices here. My choice? Drum roll, please…..
“R” is for REST.
“R & R” is what we often long for, some rest and relaxation. Rest for us must be an important concept to God too, He mentions the word in one form or another 267 times in His Word.
We all get tired, and you know as well as I do that it goes way beyond a physical tiredness. We get tired of a great many things but in general terms we simply get tired of what we have to face and deal with every day. We can identify with the psalmist who declared, “I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest…’” (Psalm 55:6) But, as the late commentator Paul Harvey was fond of saying, we can run but we can’t hide. We have to stay and deal with what we have to deal with. If we can get away from it for awhile we usually still have to face it when we get back from our temporary escape.
One of my favorite statements by Jesus, one I cling to often, is the following: “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)
The yoke is a symbol of work. The oxen wore it, two of them together, to pull a plow or a wagon, or some other object that took work to pull. Jesus’ invitation to those of us who are “weary and burdened” is to find rest with Him, with Him as our yoke partner.
He’s not inviting us to join Him on an extended vacation. He’s inviting us to work with Him. What Jesus is talking about is not rest from work but rest in the midst of work. “Work with me!” is His invitation, yes, even His plea!
Whatever our work might be – a job, dealing with a difficult relationship, overcome an addiction, dealing with an illness, coping with a set back, struggling with some inner demons – He wants us to join Him in working out His amazing plan for us, a plan that dovetails with His great big scheme of things (sometimes called The Kingdom of God).
This is a process, a learning curve. Jesus says as much. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart…” We learn, it’s not an instant kind of thing. But remember, He’s not a harsh or impatient teacher either. He says He’s “gentle and humble in heart.” That’s the kind of teacher I like, you too?
I’m still “learning” what it means to be in the yoke with Jesus, to make my work His work and His work my work, to let Him carry the load while I still take my responsibility seriously and carry my part of the bargain. I told a few people the other day that I often cling to this verse for strength, claiming it as a promise when I feel weak and weary. Somehow, some way, the Lord’s rest is often not a rest from the work and difficulties in life but a rest in the midst of them. I don’t claim to fully understand this mystery of the yoke, I just cling to it!