Rest for Your Soul

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Rest for Your Soul

SOUL Series: The Soul & Rest
by Jon Wood, Groups Pastor

Life is hard. There are some moments that are easier than others but for the most part, life in this world is a struggle. Job drama or career uncertainty, family turmoil, sickness, death, loneliness, infertility, frustration, injustice…you get the picture. And to make it worse, sometimes all of this could be going on at the same time.

Then, there’s existential questions that keep us awake at night. Who am I really? What am I here for? Does my life matter? When will I die? What happens after I die? Does God really exist? What’s the point of anything? Most certainly, trying to answer all of these can cause some stress and uncertainly to put it mildly.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus offers something we crave at the deepest level of our humanity…rest for our souls. We might not realize we’re craving soul-rest, but we are. Every one of us. And Jesus comes to help us at our deepest point of need.

He says in Matthew 11: 28-30, “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.”

For all that troubles us, all that keeps us awake, all that makes our soul restless, Jesus offers us rest.

What I find fascinating about this part of Matthew is that Jesus says, “Come to me.” He doesn’t tell us to figure out our problems or unburden ourselves beforehand. Instead, in real time, He invites us with all of our baggage saying, “Come to me.” He wants us as we are, where we are, with all the burdens we carry, to come to Him and promises us rest. Let that truth comfort you. Let it calm you. Let it settle your soul.

I once served in a church that began every service with the following welcome: “To all who are weary and need rest, to everyone who mourns and longs for comfort, to everyone who feels worthless and wonders if God even cares, to everyone who fails and desires strength, and to everyone who sins and needs a savior, this church opens wide her doors with a welcome from Jesus.” That’s disarming and it’s comforting. It’s provocative and it’s beautiful. But it’s exactly what Jesus continually says to us. We need not take care of our problems first before coming to Jesus. He says, “Come and I will welcome you. Come and I will give you rest for your soul.”

It’s important also to realize what Jesus isn’t saying. He isn’t saying that He’ll answer all of our questions or solve all of our problems. He isn’t saying that if we come to Him we’ll be worry free or live our best life now. Life will still be hard. There will still be pain. Suffering might even increase after coming to Jesus. In fact, Jesus tells us to pick up our cross and die, so the easy burden He talks about isn’t the good life as the world defines it. We’ll still die of cancer, lose our jobs and people will still betray us. But, in the face of all that, our souls can be at rest. We can know at the very most foundational level, that Jesus is with us right in the middle of our struggle. He will never leave or forsake us. That’s comforting. That’s reassuring. That’s soul-rest. No matter what, we can say, it is well with my soul.

It was this this type of settledness of soul that enable the Apostle Paul to say, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” No matter what the world can dish out (and it can dish out a lot) nothing can separate us from the love of God because Jesus is with us. So if our circumstances don’t kill us, it’s one more day we have to proclaim His faithfulness. But if we die in agony, immeasurable sorrow, penniless, alone or without answers, we gain Jesus Himself, our living hope.

So take heart and rest easy! Your soul can know and have peace if it knows and has Jesus.

[1] Many people know the story behind this famous hymn but if you’re not familiar with it, you can read it here: https://www.staugustine.com/article/20141016/LIFESTYLE/310169936