Have you ever stopped to wonder – in the sense of being amazed – at how the Lord provides rest for his people in all circumstances? Surely our life situations are not always restful, and we might expect Christians enduring persecution in various parts of the world to wish for a little more rest every now and then. But I truly believe that the experience of spiritual rest is crucial for our health as followers of Christ.
In one of Jesus’s well-known teachings, he said:
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 three verses fit into a larger context of teachings in which Jesus is challenging the status quo of “normal” religion. The people wanted to see signs and wonders, but they were unwilling to hear the message of repentance and kingdom citizenship. The Pharisees wanted to require church attendance and obedience to the law, but they were unwilling to understand how grace is more important than legalism. And in the middle of all this, Jesus calls his disciples to come to him and find rest for their souls. How amazing indeed!
I wonder – in the sense of being curious – how many people in today’s world are wishing for a little rest for their souls. And I wonder how many of them are unwilling to darken the doorstep of any church because they feel it won’t provide them with the space to find that rest. Brothers and sisters, our work as disciples of Christ should be oriented toward providing rest and refreshment to the weary, offering opportunities to encounter the Lord, making a safe place available for people to hear God’s truth. Jesus did so without compromising his radical message: that true forgiveness, healing, and eternal life are available only through believing in him. We can do the same!
Notice, though, that this rest is for our souls, not for our bodies. We find spiritual rest in the Lord, and we reach out to others to bring them into this rest. But we cannot stop there; there is much work to be done! This is, I believe, the truth of Jesus’s teaching: we can find rest for our souls in any circumstance, even the most challenging, even the most stressful. Many believers throughout the centuries have endured physical persecution while maintaining an incredible spiritual calmness. Today, the church grows the fastest where the message of Christ is dangerous and prohibited. Rest for our souls is the internal foundation from which we perform the work of the gospel.
I pray that you will find rest in all of life’s circumstances. And I pray that you will share that rest with those around you who are in similar (or even worse) circumstances. In a prophetic passage denouncing the Israelites for their unbelief, Jeremiah wrote these words:
This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’ (Jeremiah 6:16a, NIV)
May your journey follow a similar path this week, and in the weeks to come!