By Chaplain (Col) Stephen W. Leonard, USA, Ret.
“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.” Matthew 11:28-30
Ever had a restless night? I am sure you have. When sleep will not come, and you are desperate for rest; for a deep sleep that will not come, you try almost anything. Sleeping meds, warm milk, counting sheep, playing games on your phone, watching boring movies, anything that will cause you to nod off. You might try prayer.
Maybe your mind is racing. Or pain stabs at your legs, hip, shoulders, or neck. Arthur (-itis) is a terrible sleeping companion. You just cannot fully relax, and sleep cannot be wished into being. Such nights become a nightmare, and the next day is miserable. You just have to get a good sleep!
But then, even life when awake in a militant and wearying world is anything but restful. Life can be more restful when amiable and fulfilling. But when it is contentious and chaotic, it does not lend itself in the least to being “restful.” It is much rather painful and draining, draining of purposeful energy as well as the joy of satisfaction. One neither yearns for nor naturally acquires long life under such circumstances. Life is more “short-lived” with constantly pressing, taxing, and frustrating elements.
What the Savior offers His followers is the desired goal of all in life, even for those who think errantly that what they yearn for is something other than what the Savior offers them. His offered gift is the answer to every desire, though not all are aware of the limitless value and satisfaction the Good Shepherd offers.
When the Psalmist says, “The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want,” he truly means what he writes. Psalm 23 is the fleshing out of Matthew 11:28–30! “He leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul,” is the “sine qua non” of life: the absolutely essential thing, that nothing can replace. Psalm 23 is all anyone can hope for in this life and the next. It is the rest that fulfills your true desire and need, and refreshes your soul immeasurably.
Yet, while the Shepherd promises rest for your soul, Psalm 139 still holds true: “He has ordained for you every day in this life.” Long or short, the Savior can provide rest, but “rest” alone does not mean necessarily a long life. The LORD has good purposes for us within His sovereign will. If He has determined a short or long life, that will be what is best for you. You must trust God for His perfect plan.
The rest that the Savior gives is the very best gift that anyone can ever acquire. Our bodies and souls alike yearn for rest, but especially our souls. You need spiritual rest more than physical. And I imagine that is the rest the Savior is thinking about. Spiritual rest is vital to physical rest. If our souls do not find rest, it is unlikely that our bodies will be able to.
What is worthy of your thought is that there is no other who can offer you rest for your soul than the Savior, who also made you. He alone can forgive sin. And the forgiveness of sin is the essential element in the rest of the soul. Recognizing and accepting the forgiveness that Christ alone offers and secures! Guilt taxes the soul unmercifully. An unforgiven soul can never find rest. Hurry, then, to the Savior and willingly take his yoke upon you. It is easy, and the burden of it is light. But hurry, and come, for the unmatchable rest!
“I heard the voice of Jesus say, ‘Come unto Me and rest; lay down, O weary one, lay down your head upon My breast.’ I came to Jesus as I was, weary and worn and sad; I found in Him a resting place, and He has made me glad.”
(1st verse of Horatio Bonar’s hymn, “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say,” 1846)