Rest for our souls

landscape, lake, nature

Eve Lockett contributes our latest Thought for the Day:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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

Like most of us, I have had to adjust to a new pattern of living. I’ve been occupied at times, and idle at times; but there have also been moments when I’ve felt strangely tired and unwilling to do anything. I gather now this is a common condition during the pandemic, and its basis is probably an underlying anxiety. We may be enjoying the sunshine and the garden, the quiet roads and the lovely virtual gatherings of friends and family, but we know that underneath something is fundamentally wrong and we face daily an invisible danger. 

I’ve found these words of Jesus have a particular appeal to me. What draws me is that they are an invitation. Jesus is inviting me to come close to him without disguise or bravado and admit that life is a struggle. And to trust him that he can make a difference.

In particular, my mind focuses on the phrase ‘rest for your souls’. It could be that what we lack is not rest for the weary body, but rest for the weary soul. But what is my soul? And does it need rest?  Is it just a poetic expression or does it define something definite? From what I can make out from digging in books, the soul is something like the self, our inner being, our mind, emotions and personality. Sometimes in the Bible the terms soul and spirit are distinct, sometimes they are not. The spirit in us is God’s breath, his gift of life, our ‘supernatural interface’. The soul is what makes us recognisable as ourselves.

And so how can our souls find rest? Firstly, by realising how much of a burden we are already carrying. It could be a sense of uncertainty, fear, confusion, anger, the pain of rejection or the weariness of all that is wrong with ourselves and with the world.

Secondly, by letting go of the weight of it, laying it down at the feet of Jesus. Thirdly, as Jesus says, by learning to be like him – gentle, accepting, trusting, humble. That doesn’t sound quite like the resolute, challenging and radical Jesus who confronts injustice and has the authority to proclaim forgiveness and healing. But it is the Jesus who trusts and loves his heavenly Father, the Son who delights in all his Father is doing to bring hope and salvation to the world. 

Whatever our role, whether we are warriors, campaigners, carers, healers, providers, teachers or guardians, Jesus invites us to lay down our burdens and find rest for our souls. And if we don’t feel we have a role, that we are ourselves a burden to others, then we can bring that burden to him as well. He is gentle, but he is infinitely strong. 

And so I find comfort in these words of Jesus. They are a promise to me that as I come to him and learn from him, he will keep me resting in the safety and joy of knowing God’s love, the love of our Father in heaven.