Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28 (ESV)
One thing that I love about being a dad to four kids is the bed time ritual. Just kidding. I hate it.
Well, not really, but I do feel a kinship with Jim Gaffigan, one of my favorite comedians. He refers to bedtime with four kids as a “reverse hostage negotiation” (starts at 5:20).
Right on. Kids don't want to sleep. They want to stay up late. They don’t want to take naps. And for a simple reason: their brains aren’t fully developed yet. I'm kidding, but that sure feels plausible.
If someone came to me at two o’clock in the afternoon and said, “Why don’t you grab a book, go to your room, turn on some smooth jazz, read a little bit and take a nap?” I might kiss them. Say that to my kids, and it’s like I told them to clear a minefield with a jackhammer.
But now think about this: the omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient Lord of the Universe offers us rest. Resting one day in seven was the command of God before the fall of mankind. He built rest into the very order of creation. God, the one who has all authority and ability to command our ceaseless toil, chose - from the very beginning, before we could anything to earn it - to give us rest. What?!
Of course, the ultimate rest God so freely offers isn’t a matter of naps or other kinds of physical and mental refreshment, as important and God-honoring as those might be. No, the ultimate rest offered by God is found in his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus frees us from endless toil in search of forgiveness, significance, security, satisfaction - in a word, salvation. He offers us rest not only for our bodies, but also our souls - a gift that could never come through our works, but only through his.
Sadly, we’re so often like little kids at bedtime. We don’t want to rest in Jesus. We want to keep at it because part of us believes that our work is still somehow better than resting in his. We might work our bodies to the bone in search of enough wealth to secure us; enough friends to make us feel significant; enough possessions and experiences to make us feel satisfied. We might work to atone for past failings, to do enough penance to please God and restore peace to our conscience and joy to our souls, and so on. It never works, at least for long, but that doesn't stop us from trying. Our portfolio of self-reliance is pretty thick.
Even so, like the good Father he is, God will let us “stay up” and keep working for a while. Why? Because he knows what all good dads do: that, sooner or later, we’ll succumb to exhaustion again, fall asleep in his arms, and thereby gradually learn that true and lasting rest is only found in him.
Child of God: Jesus did it all and he paid it all - for you. You’re secure; he who watches over you neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:1-5). You’re significant; you’re a child of the King, a princess or prince in the Kingdom of God (Romans 8:16ff). Your Father knows what you need even before you ask him for it, and he withholds no good gift from his children (Matthew 6:8; Psalm 84:11). He can satisfy you beyond what you can ask or imagine, and he’ll do it as you learn to rest in him more and more.
You’re loved. Don’t forget it.
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