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All You Who are Weary; Is Biblical Rest a Burden or a Gift?

Jul 2, 2020 11:34:45 AM

A friend asked recently what it looked like for me to “rest” and it took a minute to answer. Even at that, my answer was some shade of “I don’t know.” I’m someone who struggles with the idea of doing nothing and calling it rest. Maybe it was my upbringing or my own thoughts or some collaboration of the two, but there’s something in me that almost immediately feels guilty or wasteful if I’m not doing something that looks productive or feels worthwhile.

But constant work or output isn’t sustainable. It’s not even wholly Biblical to avoid rest. In fact, Jesus calls us to it in Matthew 11!

"All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 

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.”

Luckily, He gives us some framework for what that Biblical rest is supposed to look like. Here are some things we can learn about the kind of rest that Jesus is offering. 


First things first, we should know who it is that we’re coming to find rest from. These words of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew tell us so much about the nature of His relationship to God the Father. We learn that no one has a comparative relationship with God. The Father and the Son have no secrets, no divisions, no doubts or fears, nothing hidden. No one knows the Father as well as The Son does. 

We also see that it is only through Jesus that anyone else has the opportunity to come to know God (John 14:6). It is here that we see the authority that Jesus has to reveal the Father to others. He is the only one who can but that shouldn’t worry us because in His very next sentence, He welcomes us to share in what He has. 


Growing up in church, I would hear the phrase “come to Jesus” all the time but I never really knew what it meant. I was like “Cool. But where is He? And what does that look like?” I was sure that if there was a wrong way to do it, I would!

But what Jesus is saying is something much more personal than an instruction. 

The theologian Spurgeon says this : “To Jesus himself we must come, by a personal trust. Not to doctrine, ordinance, nor ministry are we to come first; but to the personal Savior.”  

Coming to Jesus looks like a change in position. 

If you think about someone calling you to “come over”, it requires movement - something has to change about where you are. In attitude or trust or expectation, coming to Jesus looks like acknowledging that you could be closer and then taking the step to get there. 

Our ironic idea of “doing something” to find rest is quelled by Jesus’ words; “I will give you rest”. The rest is His to give because He is the source of it. The moment that we think that we’ll be able to conjure or produce the rest He offers, is the moment that we’ve lost sight of the offer.

And more importantly, the One who is offering. 


Would you take a yoke from someone that you don’t know?

A yoke is a wooden bar that allows two animals to be coupled together so that they could work effectively together. The Bible uses this image literally (Numbers 19:2) and also metaphorically to refer to work or bondage (Leviticus 26:13) but in this gospel, Jesus’ invitation to take up His yoke should mean something different to us. 

It means something different because He is different. His invitation and His promise comes out of love and that is what we must learn. We must learn His character, His heart, His disposition and recognize that love is the motivation (1 Peter 5:7).

When Jesus offers us His yoke, He clarifies that He is “gentle and lowly in heart” and I think it’s because He knows that we’ll forget. He knows that we’ll be quick to forget about the servant nature that He came to us with and hear a rebuke in His instruction to learn instead of an invitation to be led. 

When farmers would train new animals to plow or work they would more often than not, yoke them to a stronger, more experienced animal who would be the one to lead the way, bear the brunt of the burden and guide the younger one through the process. Jesus’ instruction here isn’t to go away to learn and come back when you’ve got it down.

It is to join Him, to be yoked with Him and learn how to let Him lead. 


Rest comes from knowing the one who is the source of it. 

When we take that step out of our comforts or our worries (equally as dangerous!), and acknowledge that we must always be coming to Jesus by moving out of where we find ourselves naturally, we are on our way to rest. We must recognize that it is a gift, freely given, not an earned thing that requires us to get all the steps right.

And that Jesus’ reason for giving is His love for us (1 John 4:9-10). 

I believe that rest comes from truly knowing who Jesus is and responding to it with action. In all His love, in all His patience, in all His willingness to teach and lead us, we must let ourselves be moved to come before Him and accept. 

Rest isn’t doing nothing but rather doing what matters the most! Coming to Jesus and accepting the journey of learning what that means. 

I learned during my Discipleship Training School (DTS) that I had to let God teach me what rest truly looked like! DTS was such an important and challenging experience for me because it pushed me out of my comfort zone and gave me the courage to find the answers to so many of the questions I had. I learned that intentional time with Jesus doesn't lead us just to rest, but to goodness, hope, love, and joy!

If you’re interested in learning more about missions or doing a Discipleship Training School with YWAM Salem, get in touch through our website and set up a call with our team! We’d love to hear from you! 

Interested in Jesus, adventure, and growing in your faith?

Do a Discipleship Training School, YWAM’s flagship missionary training course. It's a great gap year option. It's also perfect for anyone looking to step out of the ordinary and grow in your faith.

How does it work?

First, you’ll spend 3 months getting to know God amongst a vibrant Christian community and the inspiring beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Then you’ll embark on a life-changing 2-month overseas missions trip, focused on making God known. A new DTS starts every September, January, April, and June! Submit your info below to learn more. 

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