Come to Me, and I Will Give You Rest

Matthew 11:28-29  Come to me, all 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.

I love these verses.

I loved them when I was taking full course loads each semester at a university and working in my spare time to pay for them.

 I loved them when my children were little and I was teaching full time, usually having to put in an hour or two of unpaid overtime each day.

I loved them when I went back to college to pursue my master’s degree while teaching full time, raising two around-teen-age children, and serving leadership roles in several Christian groups.

I loved them when problems piled on top of each other and I saw no way out.

I loved them when the stresses of life weighed down on me while I struggled with strong PMS symptoms each month.

There was just one problem.

They didn’t seem to work for me. Spending time with Jesus didn’t make my work load lessen and I never felt rested for more than a few minutes at a time. Peace, yes. But not rested.  I did make it through – if that counts – but just barely. So I did with this scripture what I did with others I didn’t understand. I filed it under “nice idea, but confusing”, and hoped someday God would explain what He really meant.

Many years went past.

Then today I came across it again. And this time I had a light bulb moment. He’s not talking about our daily life burdens, He’s talking about religious burdens. The kind that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were putting on the people. All the dos and don’ts and rituals and ceremonies. Making sure to follow all the rules was a heavy load to carry. It still is today, if that’s what we’re trying to do.

Jesus came to show us a better way. His focus was on restoring our relationship with the Father, not in adding rituals or ceremonies. He wanted to set us free from religion so that we could enjoy our relationship with our Father. Coming from a very religious upbringing, I can testify that these verses did and still do work exactly as He said.

How did I not see this before?  How could I have read these verses for over 40 years, and never “got it”? It makes me wonder how many other verses I’ve taken out of context over the years. Maybe it’s time to reread the New Testament, this time not skimming past the familiar verses I think I know, but really looking at them in context.

I bet I’ll find enough to write a book.

And maybe I’ll do just that.

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