Rest and the Gospel

Rest seems elusive these days.

Each new day brings a host of tasks to complete and, seemingly, not enough time to complete them.

Both food preparation and the feeding of little mouths are constant. As soon as one meal is completed and cleaned up, it’s almost time to start preparing for the next.

Inordinate amounts of time are spent washing dirty dishes, cleaning dirty floors, and laundering stained, dirty clothing. But the sink is never empty. The floors are always dirty. And by the time several large loads of clothes are neatly folded and put away, hampers are full again. Such is the life of a mama at home with two littles.

Then, there’s the hurry scurry of rushing to church activities, play dates, lunch meetings, counseling sessions, appointments, errands, and for the last several months, completing hours of reading, writing, and paperwork into the late hours of most nights.

I catch myself thinking {and sometimes saying}, “What I really need is a child-free month in Cancun!” or “Wouldn’t it be great if paying a mortgage was like paying for a hotel and included a maid to come in and make beds and wash towels every day?” Sometimes the exhaustion is heavy, and a change in circumstances seems like the ultimate solution—a sure quick-fix at least.

Please don’t read this transparent confession of weariness as ungrateful discontent. The earthly blessings in my life run deep and far and wide. My husband and children are gifts I do not take for granted. My days with them are not guaranteed, and each new day at home with my babies is a treasure I would not trade. I am doing work I love, work I am passionate about, work I believe can bring glory to God and eternal good when done in faith. Truly, my combined roles of wife, mother, ministry partner to Adam, and biblical counselor to women make up my  “dream job,” as cliché as that sounds.

But, the truth is, my roles are too big for me. They’re too hard for me. To do them well requires more strength than I have to give. More wisdom than I have to offer. More patience and gentleness and faithfulness and love than I have dwelling within me. And since I don’t have what it takes, I find myself weary and searching {even grasping} for rest. But the rest I need is deeper than the kind of rest that comes from a good afternoon nap, a “check out” veg session on social media, a relaxing vacation, or even help around the house. The kind of rest I really need is a deep, life-penetrating rest—a rest that will carry me the through the physical and mental exhaustion of the day-to-day grind and far beyond that. That is the kind of sustaining rest I long for and crave. So, where is rest of that depth to be found?

In counseling and discipleship, I am constantly offering up the hope of the gospel to women. As I minister the Word, my goal is to help them understand how the good news of Jesus Christ {his substitutionary death on the cross and resurrection from the dead} speaks into every situation and circumstance of life. So, how does the the gospel offer hope for the weary stay-at-home mom? Intellectually, I know that Christ offers the rest I really need. But how do I plug into that rest? How does it become a reality in my particular circumstances?

In thinking through these questions, I am constantly returning to the familiar words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30, “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. 

Rest for your souls.

What does this really mean? Obviously, the rest Christ is offering here is a spiritual rest—an eternal, soul rest. So, how does this apply in the day-to-day life of a believing and worn-out mama?

I recently came across a podcast in which Paul Tripp talked about true rest. In it, he said the following:

I am always in situations that are bigger than I am, where I am in moments that are bigger than me—bigger than my wisdom, bigger than my strength. I am always confronted with how little I control, how little I understand. Rest is not found in my control. It’s not found in my strength. It’s not found in my wisdom. It’s found in this God who has infused my life by His grace. 

{And the light bulb came on}

Grace.

I am a constant student of God’s grace through Christ—learning how much I need it, how to live in it, breath by it, rest through it, work because of it.

The scribes and pharisees completely missed grace. They never even saw their great need for it because their own legalistic, perceived self-righteousness was so blinding. They tied up heavy burdens on others’ backs, placing greater external demands on the people than God’s law actually required and greater demands than they themselves were willing to keep (Matthew 23:4). Despite their rigid external “law-keeping,” their hypocrisy was great because they totally missed the heart of the law: to love God with heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:36-37). The pharisees oppressed God’s people and drove them toward weariness because they missed grace.

But Jesus came and turned the tables. While He didn’t promise an easy path (in fact, He guaranteed a difficult one–see Matthew 16:24-25), he did offer an easy rest. The only requirement was to come to Him. To those oppressed and weary of striving to meet a mark they always fell short of, Jesus said (and says), “Come!” 

Coming to Jesus to find true rest means falling on our faces before him in realization of our desperate need for (first and foremost) His saving grace and then for His sustaining grace in the days that follow. Coming to Jesus means crying out, “I can’t do it! I can’t carry this heavy, burdensome load! I am too corrupt and sinful. Too weak. Too weary. I fall short every time, regardless of how I strive. But Jesus, YOU are perfect in righteousness. YOU are perfect in strength. YOU are perfect in holiness. YOU lived the life I couldn’t live, died the death I deserved to die, and conquered the sin I could not conquer. I need to be found in YOU.” As we repent of sin and cling to Christ in faith to make us right before God, we can be found in Him. That is the beautiful hope of the gospel.

If  we miss grace, we miss rest. True rest for our souls is realized only when we fling ourselves upon His grace and receive pardon for sin, transformed hearts, and the ability to live rightly:

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away, through my groaning all day long. . . I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD, and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. . . You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. . . Many are the sorrows of the wicked,but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD. Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous,and shout for joy, all you upright in heart! (Psalm 32)

The reality and presence of eternal rest affects every facet of real life on this earth. In other words, the eternal rest that Jesus has provided for my soul infuses the day-to-day rest that Jesus offers for my mind and body. True temporal rest is recognized in light of everlasting rest. Because if Jesus can provide eternal rest for my soul, then he can certainly provide sustaining rest for me in the exhausting “little years” of motherhood and graduate school. If Jesus can give me the saving grace necessary to cover every sinful thought and deed, then he can certainly give me the sustaining grace necessary to unload the dishwasher for the millionth time. If Jesus offers the grace necessary to regenerate my dead heart, then he also offers the grace necessary to be faithful in good works, like caring for my family even when I think I desperately need “me time” more than anything. Jesus’s yoke is easy and burden is light because obeying Him is the natural overflow of a heart resting in the reality of His grace. Pressing on in good works is not what I do to earn right standing with God. Pressing on in good works is about learning from Jesus and following His way. It is the natural result of my right standing with God because of His grace through Christ.

Living in the reality of my need for grace not only helps me to press on in good works, it also enables me to cease striving and take time to physically rest. It enables me to stop and take an occasional, guilt-free afternoon nap, regardless of the laundry that needs to be folded. It allows me let the kitchen floor remain unswept another day because intentional time playing with my children is more important than a spotless kitchen. It enables me to relax and say, “it’s ok!” in the midst of craziness and chaos and two-year-old tantrums. Christ has provided eternal rest for my soul through His grace! And that grace is beautiful and precious and freeing. And that grace is enough.

Lord Jesus, please enable me to truly live in the hope of true rest that you hold out to me through your grace. 

{And all the tired mamas said, “Amen!” ;)}

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