Rest. It's something we all long for. For our body, mind, and heart. In our circumstances and relationships. For the past, present, and future. God created rest, and He Himself rested. I'd say that makes it an important thing, wouldn't you? It's not just something we want, it's something we need. It's okay to rest. In fact, God commanded it! "Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy," He said to the Hebrew people. The purpose of the whole day was to rest. No gathering food. No cooking. No going out. No work. Just rest.
But is one day of physical rest really enough? Is that all we need? If you have lived for any amount of time, I'm sure you would agree that you need more than a day off once a week. Our bodies demand physical rest. We need rest every day. We sleep. We take breaks at work and school. We relax daily by watching television, reading, or taking a nap. Most people have hobbies they find relaxing. Some find relaxation with exercise. My dad thrives on keeping busy on his farm. It's work, but for him it's also what he loves. I feel the same way about writing. It should exhaust me, but it doesn't. It's fun. I like it. I find it restful. That's why I do it so much!
In Jeremiah 6:16 God gives a formula for rest in another sense. "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls." And in Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus speaks these words: "Come to me all 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."
As Christians we often refer to Jesus as our Savior, and He is, but to some that's all He is. We often forget that Jesus was also a teacher. Before He died for our sins and rose from the grave, He spent much of His time teaching. Teaching His disciples. Teaching the crowds. Teaching the teachers. Teaching His friends. Remember Mary that sat at His feet and hung on His every word? Jesus said she had chosen what was even better than serving. To just listen. To be teachable. To recognize a need for guidance and asking God for it.
What did Jesus teach? To receive God's love. To love others. To trust in God, have faith, and believe in His goodness. To forgive and not judge. To share His truth with others, but even more importantly, to live it.
We have an important day coming up in America. Election Day. A day we all vote about measures and who we want to represent us. Democracy is a great thing, and we are privileged to have the freedoms and rights we have. But we need to be careful about how much trust we place in our rights as American Citizens, in our leaders, and even in people in general. How much are we looking to others to meet our needs rather than looking to God for that? We all have problems, and we often want to blame someone: the government, Wall Street, and those who have mistreated us much more personally: a trusted friend, a family member, a neighbor, a Christian brother or sister.
I don't know if you've realized this yet, but blaming others for the circumstances we find ourselves in doesn't bring rest. It brings anger. It brings grief. It brings despair. Peace and hope don't come from having our eyes on the problem-makers. It comes from having our eyes on the One who can give us rest. And His prescription is simple: 'Look, ask, and listen. Trust and believe." His grace is bigger than anything, and it's always enough.
The words of God in Jeremiah 6:16 contain a great promise. A promise of rest for following some very simple principles of listening to God and following His ways. But the words that follow are very sobering: "...But you said, 'We will not walk in it...we will not listen.'" God's promise then: Disaster.
It's important to not look at God's warning of disaster as a punishment, but rather as a natural result of not walking in God's ways. His ways are the right ways because they bring rest. He knows that because He made us and knows what we need. And when we deviate from what we really need, we suffer for it. Like when we don't get enough physical rest and we pay for it later with fatigue and burn out. Like when we don't eat healthy food and it results in health problems later. A healthy soul requires some basic maintenance too, but Jesus says His yoke is easy. It's not complicated. It's not beyond us. It can be difficult to go against our human nature, but not nearly as difficult as the alternative.
If Jesus was campaigning for your vote, some of His slogans would be: Hope instead of despair. Trust instead of worry. Give instead of greed. Believe in Me instead of believing you know better.
Are you listening? Are you at rest? These two things go together, dear one. There's no way around that.
I have found rest, and I want that for you, just as Jesus does. Believe in His love. Believe in His mercy. Believe in His promise: "Come to me...and you will find rest for your souls." Because you will.
"Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love endures forever." (Psalm 118)