Do you wake up tired in the morning?
If you do, you’re not alone. Some of it might have to do with our schedules, our stress level, or even our mattresses, but perhaps a larger part of it is that we, as people, are just tired right now. Not just tired even – exhausted.
We are exhausted from the ever-changing information about the pandemic. We are exhausted from the fighting and debates. We are exhausted from the political season. We are an exhausted people, and it’s showing. Whenever you get tired, there are certain effects that are plainly visible. Our patience is short; our anger is quick; our annoyance is heightened. We are exhausted, and we need more than sleep.
This kind of exhaustion is not just about sleep deprivation; it’s an exhaustion of the soul. And for that kind of exhaustion, we need something better than a nap:
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Jesus is welcoming to those experiencing this kind of soul exhaustion. And He has the true remedy:
Not sleep. Not avoidance. Not disengagement. But rest in the deepest way imaginable. Rest for the soul.
Examine again, for a moment, what is leading to our exhaustion. Surely it’s in part from things like this: we are trying to figure out how to navigate the world on our own, without firm and consistent guidance. It’s from the constantly changing landscape of the world around us, evolving into something brand new on a daily basis. It’s from trying again and again to fight for our own rights and opinions without seeking to listen and understand the views of others. This kind of dogged clinging leads to the exhaustion we experience.
Sounds simple, right? Come to Jesus and find rest. And in a sense, it is. At the same time, though, there is a second part to Jesus’ statement. We must come to Him, but we must also take up His yoke. And you can’t take up the yoke of Jesus until you’re ready to lay down everything else you’re carrying. Consider another teaching from Jesus about taking something up:
“If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
Taking up the cross, like taking up the yoke, requires something from us – empty hands. We cannot pick up the cross, or take up the yoke, if we are still holding onto our opinions. Our supposed rights. Our own wisdom. These are all things still in our hands, and ironically, many of the things that are exhausting us from holding onto them. We can’t embrace the Savior if we’re holding onto ourselves.
So here, then, is the invitation. It’s to recognize the worth and value of the One who calls people to see what they have left in their hands in comparison to Him. When we do, we suddenly realize we have a greater purpose than ourselves, and so we simultaneously drop and pick up. For disciples, following Jesus is both an exit and an entrance; an ending as well as a beginning. Disciples lay down, and they pick up.
So may it be with us. And so may we find rest for our souls.