My family and I are enjoying some much needed vacation time away this week and are having a wonderful time. We have been enjoying our union with Christ and each other as a family, playing, swimming, eating, shopping, and resting. As I have been thinking and praying for God to teach me about several things this week, one of the things he’s shown me once again is the truth that my rest is found not from labor but in it.
I read a quote this week that communicates this succinctly. Seth Godin said, “Instead of living for your next vacation, maybe you should set up a life you don’t always want to escape from.”
That was for me. (Not because I have a life that I always want to escape from—I serve a great church—but because I often am guilty of not enjoying the journey along the way.) But I don’t think it was only for me. It might be for you too. I fear that what Seth says hits us hard because it’s exactly the way a lot of us live. We work hard, keep our heads down, endure trials, hold our breaths and just try to make it until our time of rest—whether it’s Friday, our yearly vacation, or retirement.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with rest. It is a God-given and gracious gift to have rest following fulfilling labor. This is why a day of rest (the Sabbath) was instituted. God knew that we need refreshment and recreation before getting back to work. But I fear that we have created too much of a separation so that we now no longer have joy in our labor but only look forward to the rest. We treat our weekends, vacations, and even retirement as our right to please ourselves because we’ve earned it through hard work. Again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with these (and they can be very refreshing opportunities for growth if used correctly), but I fear that we have twisted them into times of pleasure-seeking and serving self rather than submitting them to Christ to see how He would have us use them.
When we do this (use our times of rest for our own pleasure), we actually accomplish the exact opposite of what we want. We want rest, but in seeking rest through self-serving activities, we find more trouble and anxiety and our thirst for rest is not quenched. This is because for us, as believers in Christ, our rest is in Him. This is exactly what Jesus says.
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. (Matt. 11:29)
Who would’ve thought that we actually find rest by taking a yoke and placing it around our necks? Jesus is calling us to connect our lives to His and sense His moving and leadership for us. He’s calling us to work with Him.
Jesus doesn’t say that when we are weary and heavy-laden we should take off from work and head for the beach. He doesn’t say that we should just skip church this weekend and head to the lake. He doesn’t even say that we should look past all the responsibilities we have that lie before us on Thursday in anticipation of Friday. He says that we should come to Him. The previous verse says this:
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. (Matt. 11:28)
Rest for believers is not found at a beach condo, mountain lodge, or cruise ship. It is found in Christ. Moreover, when we come to Him for rest, He tells us to hitch our lives up with His so we can sense His movements and gentle leading for us. Need a vacation? Find rest in Christ in the midst of your labor, and keep striving.
We are a fragile people. At any moment in any day, the cares of this world can creep in and begin to choke out the joy that we have in Christ. They only way to fight overwhelming anxiety is to counter it with a greater faith in the promises God gives us. Here are ten promises that you can cling to when anxious.
1. You are not alone.
“…I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Jesus, in Matthew 28:20)
2. God is sovereign (in control of all things).
Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.
3. God is working all things together for good.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
4. God will provide for all of your needs.
And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
5. God will give you joy for your sorrow.
“…For I will turn their mourning into joy and will comfort them and give them joy for their sorrow.” (the LORD, in Jeremiah 31:13)
6. God will give you strength for your weakness.
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
7. God will give you peace for your anxiety.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
8. The Holy Spirit is interceding for you.
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)
9. Jesus is interceding for you.
Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. (Romans 8:34)
10. Nothing will separate you from the love of God.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.