Have you ever been confused by this passage?
Come to Me, all you 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 NKJV)
On the one hand Jesus says, “I will give you rest,” and “you will find rest to your souls.” On the other hand he talks about taking on “My yoke” and “My burden.” I get the part about His yoke being easy and His burden being light, but it still sounds like work and not rest, doesn’t it?
Well it depends on how we think about rest.
Do you rest on vacation? Probably your initial response would be, “Well yes. That’s why go on vacation.” But what do you do to rest? Lots of people jump waves or ski or snorkel. The fact is that even though we view what we are doing on vacation as resting, we are expending a lot of energy. If we had to lie in bed all day it would not be restful but excruciating. I still remember how much I hated naptime in kindergarten. What we define as rest can actually be a lot of work while what we define as work can be restful.
Even some kinds of actual work type work are restful. This became evident all away back when God “put him (Adam) in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” Strange as it may seem, the word “put” is actually the Hebrew word for “rest.” So literally it is saying that God caused Adam to rest in the garden to tend and keep it. This becomes more interesting because the word “tend” is the typical Hebrew word for “work.” Therefore, it is saying that God rested Adam by working him. Rest came by during the right kind of work, the kind Adam was designed to do. Consequently, we must conclude that rest and work are not necessarily antithetical but instead can be compatible.
Sometimes you get a project in your head that you really want to do. Connie waters the flowers and bushes in our yard. I realized recently that if I added another outside faucet this would go easier for her. For whatever reason I was looking forward to taking on that project, even though it required crawling around in our crawlspace and getting dirty and a little wet. I was a little tired when I finished, but doing this task actually energized me, and it was especially cool when Connie turned on the new spigot and water actually came out.
Living for the Lord is like that. Even though it can get messy at times and can include hard work that makes us weary, His kind of work can also energize us and can be fulfilling. Living life under His direction, employing the gifts that He has blessed us with, knowing that He is working through us, seeing others helped and blessed in various ways, knowing that this all counts for eternity, and many other aspects of serving the Lord makes His yoke easy and His burden light.
The good news is that as we seek to follow Lord’s direction for our lives, all the work that we do is the Lord’s work whether it includes working at a factory from 8 to 5, mowing our lawn, or helping with VBS. Doing it because He directed us to do it, doing it for Him, and doing it His way can transform the drudgery of life into meaningful, fulfilling, and even restful work In essence Jesus is saying, if your work is not restful you are doing something wrong.