It’s dark when I unlock the front door. As I slip my aching feet out of my shoes, all I can think about is how great it is going to feel when I climb into my bed and close my eyes. It’s been a long day and all I want is some sleep. Some rest.
As I walk out of the exam room, my mind is trying to emerge from the world of terminology, psychological disorders, and treatments I have been stranded in for the last 2 hours. Other students on campus seem to be doing the same. Someone remarks, “Man, I just want to crash on my couch right now.” The only thing I can think about is how much rest I can get in the few hours before I need to study for the next exam. Sleep. Doing nothing. Rest.
The coffee maker has barely finished brewing the coffee when I pour it into my mug. I fail to stop the yawn I’ve been fighting. The steam rising from the mug is hypnotic; I realise I’ve been staring at it for far too long and try to rub the sleep from my eyes. Another morning that seemed to come all too soon. “Not enough rest,” my tired body cries.
Did you know that the human body can last longer without food than it can without sleep? We all crave rest, and we feel the effects of not getting enough rest very keenly. The body needs sleep to regenerate and repair cells. The body also needs rest, which means to “cease work or movement; to relax, sleep, or recover strength”.
When I switch off the ignition, I rest my head on the steering wheel for a moment. I don’t have the energy to move. The dragging weight of tiredness holds me still. A tiredness that comes from deep within, affecting the rest of my body. I’ve pretended to be fine all day, and my acting must resume once I open the car door. I crave rest, a rest that sleep doesn’t seem to be able to satisfy.
At home, I lie on my bed trying to decide what I’m feeling. Anxious. Angry. Bitter. Irritated. Ashamed. Sad. The weight of all these emotions is dragging me down. I’ve tried to pretend I’m happy, to feel anything besides this. I’ve tried to feel numb, like it doesn’t matter. But I am still tired. Still weary. My worries follow me everywhere I go. My anger comes raging back the moment I let my guard down. This is a struggle. This is a fight.
So why am I depressing you with these story-like paragraphs? To prove a point. To emphasise something. I want you to feel. I want you to “get” the magnitude of what I am trying to tell you. I’m trying to make you recall times when you have felt the exact same way, or felt anything similar. It will make what I am writing about so much easier to understand.
Rest is important. We all need it. Generally, it is assumed that rest must be a physical rest after spending a whole day on your feet, after writing an exam, or even after not sleeping well the night before. For those scenarios, sleep or just relaxing should help you feel better. But what about the other scenarios? Sleep doesn’t seem to be working for those. It is a different kind of tired, a tired that needs a different kind of rest.
“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.” (Matthew 11:28-29 ESV)
The rest that is spoken about here is not a physical rest, but a spiritual one. Rest for your souls. What does this kind of rest look like?
I don’t have the strength to let go of my worries, my anger, my fears. It’s something that I have been trying to do in my own strength for weeks. It’s not humanly possible. And the worst part is, it doesn’t have to be this way. My soul is weary and I know why. I know exactly how to fix it, but I don’t let Him. The yoke of anger. Of fear. Of worry. Of resentment. Of guilt. Those are not His. His yoke is light and gentle. It seems absurd that I would trade His gentle yoke for a yoke that is made to make me suffer, and then be unable to understand why my knees are buckling underneath its weight. It is my nature to try to take control for myself, to do it on my own. It doesn’t have to be this way, but I never seem to learn. So, I surrender. I take His yoke, because I do not need to carry my worries or fear or anger. My body is still tired, but I feel lighter, relieved.
What Jesus meant when He said that He would give us rest and that we should learn from Him, is that, by choosing to live in the way the Bible teaches, we will find rest for our souls. The way God wants us to live is not easy, it does not mean that we are never going to be tired, but it is the right way to live. It means trusting Him and placing our worries at His feet. It means forgiving what we think is unforgivable in human terms. It means peace and rest for our souls. It means loving one another in a way that seems impossible. Those things are hard, but with Christ it is possible.
This is not a quick fix. It is often a daily struggle to keep our human nature from trying to take back control, but it’s worth it. With Christ, anything is possible. In Him we find the rest that our souls long for.