Day 18: “Shalom Rest”
Have you ever felt like God is asking too much of you and the work He has called you to is more than you can do? How can you find rest in the midst of a mission that seems impossible?
“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.’” – Matthew 11:28–30
“Let me teach you how to rest…” Jesus speaks with gentleness to the weary soul working hard for the kingdom. Being on mission in full surrender to the kingdom is supposed to be the most rewarding calling, but if we are not careful about our motives, it can become the most exhausting calling. God never intended for the labor in His kingdom to drive us so hard we can barely function and we lose joy and forget the “why” behind our work. Yes, God did promise that if we live the life of a “Shalomer” and “spend ourselves” on behalf of the broken and hurting in the world as we preach the full gospel in word and deed we would get persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). But He also promised He would “guide us continually, giving us water when we are dry and restoring our strength. We will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring” (Isaiah 58:11). He promises rest as He lays our head down in fields of splendor and restores our souls in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death… (Psalm 23)
How can we be both of those? How can we be persecuted and “suffer for doing good” (1 Peter 2:20; 3:17) in this valley of death, yet still flourish and find rest and restoration in our life? It seems impossible for these two things to coexist, and if we aren’t careful, the Kingdom labor and lifestyle our Father in heaven has called us to this side of glory can embitter us toward Him. Like the prodigal older son in Luke 15 we spitefully say to our Father “I have worked like a slave for you” and we lose all our joy in the midst of our work for Him. The promises of God about “rest” and an “easy burden” can begin to mock us and make us bitter and burnt out. Eventually, we begin to resent the calling of the Kingdom, which results in even deeper chaos in our own souls and in our community. We can quickly start acting like disgruntled employees merely working in our Father’s vineyard instead of expectant heirs faithfully investing ourselves in an inheritance that is ours by blood.
As co-heirs with Christ, our work and labor, as hard as it can be in this fallen world filled with thorns and thistles, can actually be joyful when it is coming out of a place of Shalom rest. What is Shalom rest? It’s rest in our belovedness and utter availability and trust in our Father’s love for us. We no longer have to please God, because He has already been fully pleased by Jesus, and under the banner of “it is finished,” we are now righteous and beloved inheritors of the eternal kingdom of Shalom. This brings a “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). This peace and rest is the reality of our souls despite what the realities of this fallen world may throw our way. In faith, we can call out “what is” in the midst of what is not, and rest in the sovereign will of YHWH who has promised us He has “plans of Shalom instead of disaster” for us (Jeremiah 29:11).
When times get hard, and our physical body runs out of steam, and our joy and hope are threatened by our own sinful tendencies and those of others, how can we rest? Our flesh makes us either want to work harder to try and get attention and blessing, or run away from Him altogether and just indulge ourselves like the rest of the world. Neither of those brings us the Shalom rest we have available to us when we take on our Savior’s yoke. Neither of those is what the Father has intended for His heirs.
Henri Nouwen wisely writes:
“In the world there are many other voices speaking — loudly: “Prove that you are the beloved. Prove you’re worth something. Prove you have a contribution to make. Do something relevant. Be sure to make a name for yourself. At least have some power — then people will love you; then people will say you’re wonderful, you’re great.“
These voices are so strong. They touch our hidden insecurities and drive us to become very busy trying to prove to the world that we are good people who deserve some attention. Sometimes we think that our busyness is just an expression of our vocation, but Jesus knew that often our attempts to prove our worth are an example of temptation. Right after Jesus heard the voice say, “You are My beloved,” another voice said, “Prove You are The Beloved. Do something. Change these stones into bread. Be sure You’re famous. Jump from the Temple…” Jesus said, “No, I don’t have to prove anything. I am already beloved.”
Do you see? You are already fully beloved in Christ, the one who has labored beyond anything we ever could and “for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame.” We are called to “consider him, then you won’t grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3). In Christ and by His Spirit we are assured of our belovedness as God’s kids, and the temptation to feel like slaves working for a taskmaster is gone and replaced by a spirit of adoption (Romans 8:14-17). As beloved co-heirs with Christ we “struggle with His energy working powerfully within us” (Colossians 1:29), hoping in our inheritance that “will never spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:3-7).
Rest, weary soul, rest. As the hymn writer said: “Lay your deadly doing down, down at Jesus’ feet. Rest in Him alone, gloriously complete.” His yoke is easy and His burden is light…
1. Take some time to get honest about the lack of Shalom rest in your life. Where are you striving to “prove you are the beloved?” Where are you tempted to not believe and rest in the finished work of Christ and take His light yoke upon you?
2. List out the things in life that bring rest for your weary soul. Knowing your Father in heaven is not a slave driver, take time out of your busy schedule to do healthy things that cause you to slow down and rest. Know that your Father is smiling as you rest and trust Him with the seemingly unending work to do in the world. Rest, knowing He is pleased with you, not based on what you do for Him, but merely because He loves you as His child. You can produce nothing to make God love you more, and you can’t screw this up to where He loves you less. Rest in this reality.
3. What are the ways you are pressuring others to work hard to find their identity in what they do for God instead of resting in the finished work of Christ? How are you being a “slave driver” toward others, demanding they perform according to your standards or needs without showing much grace to them the way you have been shown grace? Search your heart. Are you afraid their failure to perform will reflect badly upon you? Are you unable to rest for fear of their failures making you look like a failure? Is this fear driving you to be overly critical and harsh toward those in your life, and unmerciful toward them when they fail to meet your expectations? Take some time to own what you need to own and repent for the ways you compromise the Shalom rest of others through your “busyness.” Rest now in your belovedness, humble yourself, and consider asking those you often “pressure to perform” for forgiveness for your harshness toward them.