SOUL SABBATH: Jesus’ Invitation to Rest

By Oz Lorentzen

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, 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.  (Matthew 11)

As time moves me along it tide (as I get older) I am increasingly struck by the need for rest, the value of rest, and the (sometimes) impossibility of getting rest.  Sometimes this is just the result of a bad night’s sleep, the accumulation of new pressures or responsibilities, or the demands of someone else’s agenda.  Whatever the cause, the end result is the same:  I am weary and am longing for rest!  Jesus’ call comes as water to a thirsty soul:  “Come to me all who are weary… and I will give you rest.”  And yet, somehow, over the years, even this invitation seems to lose its vitality and, in some cases, becomes part of my weariness, since my own religious duty is also a weight and burden.

While it is possible to respond to Christ’s offer in this way, this does not have to be the case.  To the heart crying out for rest, I think a central component is found in these two attributes:  Being gentle and humble (”learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest…”).  I cannot help but think that this may be the missing ingredient.  If so, how are gentleness and humility related to rest?  A straightforward answer to this question points out how gentleness and humility are directed outwards, towards others, and away from the self.

The clear biblical injunction (to seek the welfare of others) is born out by Jesus in His life and ministry.  This suggests, as I believe is true, that the real source of weariness is our focus on our selves.  This is not to deny the need for healthy boundaries and care for the self (“no one hates his own flesh”) but to point out how a commitment to defend and secure our own interests becomes a burden that gradually wears us down.  Against this, we have the offer to leave our own care to Him who cares for us, and to be occupied in His work and interest in the lives of others.  And this, the promise goes, will be sabbath rest for our souls.