Jesus invites those who are weary, burdened, and heavy laden to savor the rest he offers (Matthew 11:28-30). Relief from the yoke of the law and from our toilsome labors. Rest for the soul. The restoration of God with his children, to abide together in his rest for all eternity. Right now, we live on in a sin-stricken world. But when Christ returns, God will dwell among us.
At the end of his life, my friend David leaned into Christ’s promise of rest. The hope he drew from that promise so comforted him that he spent his last moments witnessing to others.
He’d endured a long, arduous struggle with end-stage emphysema. For months he ricocheted back and forth between the hospital and rehab, and wrestled with fear, doubt, and exhaustion as the simple act of breathing became a burden. “I’m so tired,” he would say, between gasps of air. “I just wish I knew what God is doing.”
Yet even when David could barely breathe, he felt an urgency to share the hope and peace he gleaned from the gospel, so he diligently planned a funeral that would offer Christian hope to all in attendance. When my kids and I visited him the day before he died, we found him sitting at a table with his laptop open to a letter he wanted read during the service. He passed into Jesus’s arms a little over 24 hours later.
I was privileged to read the passages he chose for his funeral, and tears sprang to my eyes when I saw his most cherished verse among them. It was a verse that had offered him a cool cup of water in arid times, and he now ensured that it would be offered to the gathered mourners so that they too might find comfort: “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).
Seeking a Hidden Rest
In our world that prizes productivity over stillness, rest seems an alluring but ever-elusive gift. A startling number of Americans struggle with sleep deprivation, and more than half of American employees report symptoms of workplace burnout.
The tourism industry in the United States generates over one trillion dollars in revenue each year, as we flee our hometowns with the hope that ocean breezes, mountain air, or a change in scenery might finally calm our frayed nerves. Inevitably, when the vacation weeks fly by, and we return home sunburned, weary, and deflated, we wonder how the refreshment we sought has escaped us yet again. While our Lord calls us to “be still” and know he is God (Psalm 46:10), we never seem to find the time.
Meanwhile, the travails of life exhaust us. Businesses fail. Disasters strike. Loved ones fall ill, and some die. Our bodies wither and break, and our hopes along with them. Pain and loneliness, grief and worry weigh down our souls, and we find ourselves broken, parched, exhausted, and yearning for stillness. For relief. For rest — that cool cup of water that never seems to come.