Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle 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 NASB
In Genesis 2:2, the Bible tells us that after finishing the work of creation, God rested from His work. In Exodus 20:11, God explains that that rest is a pattern for us to follow. One day out of seven, we are to dedicate to worship and to rest from our labors. Jesus later explained that the Sabbath was given for man’s good: Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27 NASB). It seems now more than ever we need to remember the Sabbath. We are a nation full of stressed out, overworked, restless people.
But even in remembering the Sabbath, we need to be careful. I read a comment recently that reminded me of conversations I’ve had in the past with Reformed types about the proper observation of the Sabbath. The gist was that God’s rest wasn’t inactivity, and neither should ours be. Granted, many people attempt to defend sleeping in on Sunday and not going to church because it’s the only day they get to sleep in.
But I think we should be cautious about comparing ourselves to God regarding rest, our need for it, and what our rest should look like. We are not God. We were made to worship Him, and we were made to need rest. Our bodies, our minds, our souls need rest. But how do we find it in this busy and exhausting world?
I recently had the privilege to read Hannah Anderson’s new book, Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul. Hannah starts out her book explaining that we are a tired and stressed out group of people. This shouldn’t be news to anyone. We all know that.
We are tired, because we do not rest. We are stressed, because we do not acknowledge our limitations. We are anxious, because we are relying on ourselves. Our pride tells us that we can be like God, but we can’t. We must learn to rest in Jesus and to trust God to care for us. Hannah explains:
You’re not God. I’m not God. None of us are God. … We are made in His image, but we are made nonetheless. (10-11)
Using the Matthew 11 passage quoted above, Hannah explains that what we need is to acknowledge that we aren’t God and to humble ourselves to serve Him:
When we disregard our natural human limitations, we set ourselves in God’s place. When we insist that our voice and our work is essential and must be honored, we set ourselves in God’s place. When we believe that with enough effort, enough organization, or enough commitment, we can fix things that are broken, we set ourselves in God’s place. And when we do, we reap stress, restlessness, and anxiety. (42)
But there is rest to be found in trusting Jesus:
So what does it mean to trust Jesus for rest? How does seeking His kingdom free us from anxiety and worry? He frees us from our burdens in the most unexpected way: He frees us by calling us to rely less on ourselves and more on Him. He frees us by calling us to humility. (32)
This is not a call to do more or to be more or to rely on ourselves and our own actions. This is a reminder that Jesus is our rest:
When Jesus calls us to take His yoke, when He invites us to find rest through submission, He is not satisfying some warped need for power or His own sense of pride. He is calling us to safety. The safety that comes from belonging to Him. The safety that comes from being tamed. (43)
Jesus is also our example for true humility. As Philippians 2 describes, Jesus is the very model of humility. But Hannah warns that we must not give in to the temptation to simply try to be more like Jesus:
We are not called to embody Jesus ourselves. He has already been incarnated and is still even now! No, we are not called to be Jesus; we are called to fall at His feet and worship Him. … And it is through this worship, through recognizing His rightful place, that we are finally humbled. (76)
Through worshipping Jesus and accepting our limitations, we can finally rest like the Psalmist says:
O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; Nor do I involve myself in great matters, Or in things too difficult for me. Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord From this time forth and forever. (Psalm 131 NASB)
Hannah goes on to expound on how this rest through humility can give us rest for our bodies, our emotions, and our minds. She explains how this humility teaches us to trust God with our resources, our plans, our pain, and eventually our death.
Our bodies can find rest because we recognize our limits. We know we are created and in His acceptance we can find peace. How many of us look in the mirror (or avoid it) each day and hate what we see? Why do we do this? Why are we ashamed of our bodies? (Hannah notes here, and I want to be sure to add, that the discussion here about shame is not about the results of physical or sexual trauma. This is the more general sense of body image shaming so common in our culture.)
Humility reminds us of our limits; humility teaches us that we are physical beings existing in a broken world. Not only are we limited and imperfect ourselves, but our bodies and our sense of our bodies have been shaped by false messages around us. … What will free you from shame is humility; what will free you from shame is accepting that you are not and were never meant to be divine. And once you do, you are free to embrace your physical nature. You are free to stop obsessing over your imperfections because you know that to be human is to be imperfect. You are free to enjoy your unique genetic makeup that has been generations in the making. You are free to reject the lies that have made you ashamed – whether they come from the media, friends, and family, or your own head. You are free to hear the voice of the only one whose opinion counts. You are free to hear God declare you body “good.” (89)
Our emotions can find rest because we understand that how we feel is not the last word on reality. This is a great reminder for me. Many days I wake up anxious for no real reason. On those days, I have to remind myself again and again that though I feel like something is terribly wrong, my emotions are lying to me. Hannah explains:
In other words, we do not resolve our emotional uncertainty – our stress and anxiety – by focusing on our emotions themselves. We resolve our uncertainty by getting to the root cause. We resolve it by learning from Jesus, who is meek and lowly of heart. The premise of this book is that much of our emotional inability is rooted in pride. Not simply pride in our intellect or our physical bodies, but a pride that prioritizes our emotions as the source of truth. … Humility teaches us that we don’t have to obey our emotions because the only version of reality that matters is God’s. (103-104)
Our minds can find rest because we realize that we are not saved by having the right opinions or ideas. Public/private/home school? Vaccinations or not? Republican/Democrat/Libertarian/None of the above? Our salvation doesn’t depend on getting these answers correct. We don’t have to be afraid of being wrong, and this is such encouraging news.
When we believe that our righteousness comes from having the “right” opinions or taking the “right” position on an issue, we can never move from that position. And so, like an animal backed into a corner, we fight and scrap and lash out against anyone who would try to make us. And as James predicts, this kind of rational pride – this “earthly wisdom” – ultimately leads to anxiety and disunity … . If God accepts us based on our being right about every issue, then we must fight to prove ourselves right; but if God accepts us based on our being right, then none of us have any hope. If, however, God accepts you based on Jesus’ being right, then you are safe. … And then you can finally rest. (126-127)
Humility teaches us to trust God with our resources because we acknowledge that all we have is a gift from Him both to enjoy and to honor Him through:
If we take a great deal of satisfaction in how little we need, in how much we reject abundance, simplicity becomes nothing more than an asceticism that, as theologian J.I. Packer puts it, is “too proud to enjoy the enjoyable.” Instead of rejecting our resources, humility teaches us to receive them as gifts and to use them for God’s glory and the good of those around us. (147)
Humility also teaches us to trust God with our plans because we recognize our limitations and know that while we aren’t in control, He is. How freeing it is to know that God is in charge. Even when things don’t necessarily go the way we want, trusting God with our plans leads us to draw closer to Him:
Pride tells us that all we have to do is organize well enough, plan effectively enough, and work hard enough and we can achieve our dreams. Humility teaches us that it was never up to us in the first place. The same God who gives us our desires is the God who orchestrates how, and whether, those desires come to pass. And the hard truth is they may not. … But here again, humility offers rest. If we are submitted to God’s hand, even our unfulfilled desires can be fruitful because our unfulfilled desires can be the very things God uses to draw us to Himself. (165-166)
Humility teaches us to trust God with the pains and sorrows of this life because we remember who God is:
This is how humility overcomes the world: Humility trusts God. In the midst of injustice, humility believes that God is just. In the midst of grief, humility believes that God is comfort. In the midst of brokenness, humility believes that God is health and life. … And when we remember who God is, when we are humbled before Him, we will be free to mourn the brokenness – both from within and without. (185)
We know that He sees. We know that He cares. We know that we will one day bring an end to pain and sadness:
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. (Rev 21:4 NASB)
Humility teaches us to trust God even in death. Death is a reminder that we are finite and that we are not yet perfect. But even death itself will be done away with when Christ returns.
Even as we are humbled in death, God promises that death – that proud destroyer – will itself one day be humbled. Even as death boasts over us, God promises that one day death will be abased and we, who have been humbled, will be exalted. (197)
Our bodies are frail. Death reminds us that we need physical rest. It reminds us that we need spiritual rest because without Christ we are not at peace with God and are dead in our sins. Death also reminds us that as believers we have the hope of a future and more perfect Sabbath rest. (Hebrews 4) There will be a time when we will no longer struggle against sin and pain, but we will be free to enjoy God and His rest forever.
I strongly encourage you to read Hannah’s book. If you are stressed and tired and overwhelmed, come to Christ for rest. There is rest for us in humility. I hope you will be as encouraged and challenged by Hannah’s book as I was. If you are interested in winning a free copy to read, please leave me a comment here and share this review with others, if you don’t mind.
The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.
For He Himself knows our frame;
He is mindful that we are but dust.
As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. (Psalm 103:8-15, NASB)