Come and Take a Rest
Whether you are a young student, whose main labor is getting your education, or whether you are well into your work life, with a career to build, perhaps with a family to care and provide for, or even if you’re anywhere in between – you have work to do. It’s a fact that we all have things that we need to get done, things that won’t be put off, things that enrich our lives, or simply make them even possible.
In short this is what we colloquially call ‘adulting’. The doing of the business of life. We might find ourselves thinking or even saying, “what I wouldn’t give to be young again”. That is to say: be free from the responsibilities of adulthood. But really, even a child has a measure of work, sized down to their capacity of course, but certainly there.
Bearing responsibility begins when we’re young. It starts off with being responsible for yourself, and spreads out eventually to include being responsible for other people, for their well-being, for their care. Our work grows with our capacity to work.
We all have work to do, daily, even constant work to do. Paid and unpaid. Recognized and unrecognized.
How are we to deal then, with the constant load of work, the burden of responsibility? Well, if this were a nonstop onslaught, none of us could. But God has given us the mysterious gift of rest.
The most obvious way in which we rest is to sleep. When we sleep our muscles, relax, our body repairs itself our brain makes sense of all that it has experienced and stores away all that it has learned. Certainly, a full night’s sleep is kind of a big deal, but there is more to rest than sleep.
In the book of Leviticus 23:3 we read: “there are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a sabbath to the Lord.”
God here, institutes a whole piece of our calendar for a deeper, more transformative rest, than simply the rest of sleep. God designed us to require sleep, we become physically ill and mentally compromised when we lack it. But here, when God says aside for himself, chosen people, a nation of priests, he institutes a new kind of rest.
A sabbath rest is a willful rest, a chosen rest. Again, there’s a little choice about sleeping. If you try to go without sleeping altogether, you’ll discover why some have called sleep, ‘the gentle tyrant’. It can be delayed, but not defeated. But this sabbath rest, is a matter of choice. It is a matter of obedience.
Obedience may sound to our modern ears, quite burdensome, and too like just more work to do. But we are assured of better sources for obedience than obligation or fear.
In the epistle 1 John 5, we read: “this is love for God, that we obey his commands, and his commands are not burdensome.”
The frivolous priorities of the world, the instant gratification seeking appetites of our flesh, and the subtle insinuations of the devil will find ways to make us think of obedience to God as burdensome, as hard work.
But in truth, when God calls us to choose him, he’s really calling us to choose rest. Rest from the fight for survival, rest from the constant stress of striving ambition, to rest in him, who is the source of life. In other words, this sabbath is not just a physical rest, set aside from the work of the week. There is a deeper rest for the children of God.
In the book of Hebrews, chapter 4:9-10 “…there remains, therefore, a sabbath rest for the people of God. For whoever enters God’s rest, also rests from his own work, just as God did from his…”
This rest, this sabbath rest, is meant to give us rest in our souls from the pressures and demands of survival. It is – a foretaste – of the rest we will know in eternity, as we read in the book of Hebrews 13:12 “for now we see only a reflection, as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know, fully, even as I am fully known.”
The rest from the burden of uncertainty – of the things that we don’t know, from the worry of what we aren’t certain about.
In this life, we have spiritual challenges of all kinds, and we overcome all of them – by faith. By reminding ourselves of what we know of God’s love, God’s saving grace, and God’s perfect will. By using that faith in what we know, to keep the sadness and stress of what we don’t know from overwhelming us.
As Jesus tells us in John 16:33: “In this world you will have tribulation – but take courage – I have overcome the world.”
The sabbath rest invites us to come and sit with this truth. That we are pilgrims in this world, that our true home and the true comforts of home, for us – are always, someplace else. Don’t misunderstand me – we make our tents in this present world, and we prosper here, work and grow and love here. We flourish here just like the Israelites did when they were in captivity. Like them we thrive in faith right where we are, with our faces facing towards our true home with the Lord.
In doing so, we bring glory to God.
God’s invitation to a sabbath rest – is God wanting for you to get to know him. To really – spend time with him – not rushed. This can be a challenge, as we are no-doubt setting aside for a moment work that needs to get done – either at home, or work, or school – but by embracing your time with the Lord you are set free and your perspective, or point of view, is re-set. You approach that work later, with a renewed mind.
In the Gospel of Matthew 11:29-30 we read the words of Jesus: “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.”
When you dedicate time to sitting with the word, resting in the Lord, you’re inviting God to renew your mind and refresh your heart. So let us come to him, and embrace the rest of the Lord.
H. Harry Razon
Harry is a valued member of The Virtual Way community and has generously contributed this article to our blog.