I was afraid about entering into a certain season of life and ministry, fearful of the difficulties that seemed to lie ahead, but was comforted when I prayed and was reminded of Matthew 11:25-30. These verses promised Jesus’ rest, and in his self-description of being gentle and lowly, I was challenged to trust that God wouldn’t be reckless with my own heart. I stepped forward in hope and trust, believing that God would be gentle with me and grant me his rest.
Fast forward a year, and I found myself exhausted, confused, and angry. “God, I thought you promised! God where is that rest that you promised?!” My heart felt crushed by the weight of all that I had to do, burdened by guilt and hopelessness, wondering “what happened?” It was the first time in my life that I felt like God’s promise hadn’t pulled through. Even now, it is a season that though had its share of blessings, I wouldn’t desire to live through again. “Kind of like middle school” is how Jeff aptly describes it.
Today, God reminded me of this promise in his word as I reflected on that season of life and the good that he had brought about. Through that year (and afterwards too), God was humbling me. He allowed me to be crushed under the weight of my legalistic standards and service to him, he showed me the limits of my own understanding and strength to serve him and love people, and he revealed to me just how incapable I am of following him with my own strength. I walked away with a keen sense of my own powerlessness as a servant and even believer of Christ- I couldn’t put my hand on the plow and not look back, I couldn’t go “all in”, I couldn’t do everything that I knew was right to do. And I am so thankful to have felt that way.
If I had walked away “victorious” in my own eyes, feeling that “rest” that I had hoped for, I would have seen myself become more prideful, less compassionate towards suffering brothers and sisters in Christ, and with a misplaced faith in self. When everything felt pulled out under my feet, I saw that in the final measure of things, I will not be found with a faith that came from myself, but that God is the one that keeps me walking with him; that is a deep conviction that I have had since and shared with others to encourage them to hope in God. In short, in all that God did and allowed to happen during that season, I was stripped of trust in self and the law, and slowly brought to deeper hope and faith in God and the Gospel alone.
I had thought that the rest promised in Matthew 11:25-28 was the kind of physical, emotional, spiritual rest in a “not feeling tired way”, and though God does grant that kind of strength, that is not the most important kind. Unbeknownst to me, Jesus was fulfilling the promise of rest in my life. This promise was the promise a supernatural, final rest founded on his gospel grace. In Matthew, he was calling people to give up the yoke of the law, to enter into the rest that is given freely in accepting the grace and life that flows through the Gospel. This rest is experienced in part on this earth as Christians, and fully when we enter into the eternal Sabbath that God entered to after Creation (Heb. 4). He was and is calling us to cease from striving with human strength to fulfill a human understanding of how we get to God, and to cling onto a faith that knows that our hope is not in our own ability to trust, follow, or love God, but in God and God alone. In this knowledge, I walk with him, learning from him, finding rest for my soul.
The precious words of Jesus:
“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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”