Forgotten Rest

Updated. First posted on November 20, 2009 at 9:47 AM

It is possible that I have never lived through a time when rest seemed in such short supply. There have always been troubled times on earth, and there is no question that people have lived, and are living this moment, through worse than you and I have ever known. In this time and place, our lack of rest comes more from being bombarded with news, opinions, forecasts, and such oft changes to our norms that stability seems an impossible dream. Everyone, it seems, is struggling to find balance, to find mental rest.

Even Christians, and even in church.

Long ago, in a time without social media or twenty-four-hour news availability, the prophet Jeremiah declared the word of the Lord to the struggling children of Israel, saying about them, “They have forgotten their resting place. All who found them devoured them.”

It wasn’t that they didn’t have a resting place. They had forgotten it.

I wonder if they had just forgotten their place of rest in the sense of neglecting it? Or had they just lost their way and couldn’t find their way back? Or was the fault truly to be laid at the feet of those shepherds who apparently led them astray, perhaps by putting burdens on them that no one could carry?

Whichever, it is a lesson for us, as New Covenant people.

Jesus said, “Come unto me all you who are burdened and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

The place of rest for the children of Israel was in trusting God, and in trusting, following his instructions. There was both rest and safety in that. It’s interesting that the writer of Hebrews tells us that we who have believed have entered into rest. He also said that it is possible to fall short of it through unbelief. What jumped out at me today was that shortly after saying those things, he adds, “He that has entered rest has ceased from his own works.”

Simple, isn’t it? We can’t be working and resting at the same time.

There are different kinds of works we encounter in the scriptures. We are certainly called to “good works” but that’s not the works that Hebrews speaks to, the ones we rest from. The works we rest from are those things that we try to do in order to be accepted by God. Those, even the righteous works, inevitably lead us away from rest.

The good works that we were “born again” to do can only flow, in truth, from that place of heart rest. That place where we are already accepted in the beloved, never qualified by our performance. The constant refrain of “You’re not doing enough, good enough, earnest enough, hungry enough,” no matter where it originates, is not at all helpful.

In reading the verse below that speaks about a “yoke”, it can be easy to conclude that walking with Jesus, yoked with him, suggests a lack of freedom. The truth is, however, that no one is ever free from a yoke of some kind. Even one who appears to live as if he is without care or boundary is not free from fear or care. If we could see the inner man, his true thoughts and feelings, we would see the heavy burdens he carries but cannot share. Fear of death, which shows up in many disguises, is the heaviest burden of all. It is the human condition in a fallen world and Jesus is well aware of our state. He came to us because, if he didn’t, there would be no escape, no remedy.

But he did come, and today we have these beautiful words to consider and receive: gift, righteousness, trust, rest. All available to all who believe.

But how do we find rest in the situations we live with and must deal with every day as we wake up and go out into the world, or not, as we are allowed?

I think Jeremiah can speak to us today—believers who have accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord. Our rest is where it has always been found throughout the centuries of God’s engagement with man: Trust completely. Trust in your place in His family; trust His faithfulness to keep His word; and trust in His power to do what He says. And then, still trusting, follow His instructions, being yoked only to Him.

All those names which God used to introduce Himself when he first engaged fallen man? They were all seen in Jesus as He walked among us, and are still active today. He lives in us by His Holy Spirit, and He knows what He’s doing.

And us? What is our work? It is so very, very simple. Trust and obey. There is our rest.

Photo by Rodolfo Quiru00f3s on

“He also himself took part of the same [flesh and blood] that through {His own death] He might destroy him that had the power of death , that is, the devil; and deliver those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage,” (Hebrews 1:14-15).

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” (Matthew 28-30).