Matthew 11: 28Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
I recently read an article Rest for the Weary[i] emphasizing the importance of rest for athletes. This short piece succinctly articulates the need for rest using the acronym RRI (Rest Recovery Imbalance). This Rice University article states that athletes find it more satisfying to throw in another workout rather than giving their bodies a chance to recover. Rest can be passive (doing nothing between workouts), or active (light exercise at a low heart rate that doesn’t damage the muscles). Recovery is the time the body needs to repair the damaged muscles from a tough workout. The body is an amazing machine. Immediately after a workout, the body goes to work repairing broken down muscles. Given enough rest, the body will completely fix itself. If, however, an athlete does not allow sufficient time for repair, the next workout starts with the body in a slightly weakened state – a Rest Recovery Imbalance. While the athlete thinks they are making more progress by training harder and more frequently, they are actually inhibiting muscle-building and putting their body at a high risk of injury, and they risk mental fatigue. They become a weary athlete.
As a Christian we can become wearied as well. There are periods or even seasons in our life where we seem to be under the gun from morning until night, seven days a week. There are times where I have literally looked up into the heavens and said: “Really God?!!!; are you really going to throw this on top of me too?!!!” I was completely wearied and disillusioned.
Yet God does not abandon us in our time of trial. While He is no wimp, and has absolutely no qualms in letting us go through fiery trials (1 Peter 4:12), He also promises to abide with us through those trials. 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30). In this scripture Jesus gives us an invitation for rest and He also gives us a promise of rest. I think, as believers, we sometimes forget, or take too lightly, God’s promises and in doing so we dishonor Him.
Whenever I lack wisdom I claim the promise God gives in James 1:5 that He will give me more. Likewise, when I am burdened and weary I come to God proclaiming His promise that He will give me rest. But, I also take the scripture in context and recognize that rest comes in the form of His yoke that I am called to take upon myself. Much like the “active” rest described in the RRI equation, the period of rest God provides typically doesn’t entail doing nothing, it simply means that God partners with us in the trials. Rather than being overwhelmed by the trial, suddenly with the help of God, the burden becomes manageable and light. Just like the light spinning workout on a stationary bike loosens the muscles without damaging them, when we take on God’s yoke we suddenly find a way to continue on with the burdens of life, without damaging us spiritually or emotionally. When we understand this concept of crying out to God for His yoke in our time of trial, then we can understand what James meant when he penned: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4). Are you weary today? Claim God’s promise. Take His yoke.