Rest for Your Souls

by Eric Ryan, Pastor of Leadership Development

By now, it feels like we have been driving in a tunnel and we’re far enough along that we can’t see the entrance and yet, not far enough to see the exit either. How are you holding up?

This week I heard someone describe how they are doing as “okay.” That seems to be the majority consensus. Very few of us feel like we are thriving, and yet, we are blessed that the majority within our congregation have not been directly impacted by the virus either. Can I be honest? I kind of hate these types of “holding patterns.” 

I was looking for help in engaging with Jesus in the mornings because when I am in this type of “holding pattern”, I get stir crazy both physically and spiritually. It came in the form of Dane Ortlund’s book: “Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers.”

In the opening chapter, Ortlund sits on Matthew 11:28-31:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Here are three observations that meant something to me:
  1. Ortlund points out that this is the only time in gospels we see Jesus describe His own heart. Often He describes ours, or even the Father’s, but never His own. And how does He choose to describe Himself- the king of kings and Lord of lords? “Gentle and lowly.”

  1. By “gentle”, we understand Jesus’ power is under control. There are no outbursts with Jesus. His response to us is ALWAYS gentle. Not weak, but gentle. In the very next chapter, Matthew quotes Isaiah: “...a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench.”

And what does he mean by “lowly”? “The point in saying that Jesus is lowly is that he is accessible. For all his resplendent glory and dazzling holiness, his supreme uniqueness and otherness, no one in human history has ever been more approachable than Jesus Christ.”1 How does that hit you?

1Ortlund, Dane C. Gentle and Lowly, Crossway. Kindle Edition. 

  1. Finally, Ortlund reminded me that the “heart” in scripture is the center of our being. As Psalms tells us, “Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.” In other words, at the center of Jesus’ heart, coating all He does and says and every interaction He has with us, are gentleness and lowliness. Think about that!

I don’t know what rest has looked like for you during this season. For most, it seems to be a lot harder to come by now that it was three weeks ago, but, in coming to this gentle and lowly Jesus, He promises us rest for our souls. 

It’s not, “Come to me, and I’ll help you be more efficient with your time.” And it’s not, “Come to me, and I’ll make you a better Christian.” It’s, “Come to me, and you will find rest for your souls.” “Rest for the soul” isn’t ceasing from activity. It’s also not ceasing from responsibility. “Rest for your soul” is that peace and confidence that is anchored in the person of Jesus and frees you up from anxiety and worry, to empower you to live for Him. It often surpasses understanding while allowing you, day by day, to take the next step. 

Go to Him. Bring all the mess you have with you and take His “yoke.” It’s light, and it will give you the rest you are looking for. We’re praying for you! Hang in there, church family!
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