“Come to me, all who labour 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.” (Matt 11:28-30)

This concludes a little two-part reflection on Christian rest (so if you didn’t read last week’s e-bulletin stop, go back to your inbox, and read it! 🙂 )

Western culture is not restful. More and more psychological and sociological studies confirm what we sense is true: anxiety is increasing. Anxiety is a broad term, but studies are showing that general anxiety disorders have increased significantly in recent years. The American Psychiatric Association ran a poll on 1,000 U.S. residents in 2017, and they found that nearly two thirds were “extremely or somewhat anxious about health and safety for themselves and their families and more than a third are more anxious overall than last year.” They also noted that millennials were the most anxious generation. In 2018, the same poll was repeated and anxiety was shown to have risen again by another 5 percent.[1] Of those Americans with diagnosed mental health concerns, 40 million have anxiety disorders. Many researchers have noted that significant anxiety is far more prevalent in affluent countries, leading some to assert that we are more psychologically sensitive because “we now focus on extrinsic desires, such as a new car, a big house, and our appearance, rather than intrinsic desires, including the joy of family and friends, and meeting with others in the community.”[2]

What does the bible say about it? As we see in the above passage from Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gives us rest. Rest is a such a rich biblical word. Throughout scripture we find that true rest is not a position upon a hammock, but a disposition of our souls. The recognition that God invites us to rest from our vain works by trusting in the finished work of Christ. In our society we limit rest to that time when we stop working. But as the above research studies prove, rest of soul is not guaranteed by rest from work. In fact Jesus speaks of a rest that is active. A yoke is a tool of farm labour; if we are taking on a yoke and burden from Jesus we are actively about his ministry through us as “co-labourers” for God (1 Corinthians 3:9). Primarily, the yoke of Jesus is his teaching and he exhorts us to “learn from me”. Perhaps he had in mind the prophet Jeremiah’s words: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls (Jeremiah 6:16).” So God’s rest for our souls is not from our walk (or work) but in our walk and work. Paul teaches us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Phil 2:12b-13)” Jesus has already done the heavy lifting for us; he bore the burden of our guilt and sin by dying for us, and he continues to work on our behalf in and through us for God’s good pleasure. In Christ you are God’s good pleasure! Now that is a restful thought!

Much love,

Pastor Gary

[1] Tim Newman, Medical News Today, 5 September 2018, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322877.php

[2] As above

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