One of the new ‘skills’ I seek to teach folks throughout the course of counseling is how to rest in the Lord. This is not always an easy thing to do. For many, it’s one of those ideas that is ‘easier said than done’. But resting in the Lord is such an important concept because not only are we a weary people, but our weariness will never find true, soul-satisfying rest, apart from a rest that comes from resting in the Lord. So what exactly does it mean to rest in the Lord?
TO REST IS TO TRUST
To rest in the Lord is to give and have total trust in God and absolute surrender of all ambitions and desires. It is to admit sin and weakness and then to know and believe in faith that any all substance for what you truly need in life and in faith comes directly from the hand of God. In this sense, we see trust in the Lord God modeled by our Lord himself, Jesus*.
THE PROBLEM OF TEMPTATION AND SIN
The greatest area we will be tempted to not rest in the Lord is in the face of temptation and sin. There are many temptations but perhaps a large ‘meta-temptation’ is the temptation to take matters into our own hands. Looking at the life of Jesus, we see this temptation play out in the face of insults and persecutions yet despite this he trusted his Father.
“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”1 Peter 2:23 (NIV)
We also see Jesus tempted in the garden of Gethsemane. The core temptation in this moment was to turn away from the Father’s plan for his life. The plan for Jesus was die for the sins of the world.
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”Luke 22:42 (NIV)
The temptation for Jesus was real. The writer of Hebrews writes: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.” Hebrews 4:15 (NIV).
When folks come to counseling, there are usually beaten up and weary from the insults and persecutions hurled at them. These insults come from all different places. Sometimes the world, sometimes our ourselves. We can have such an improper low view ourselves that we reinforce the lies of the world. And frankly, often times these insults come straight from our primary spiritual enemy, the Devil, who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
REST IS SPIRITUAL
When we can reach a place of trust in the Lord, we grow to realize that the rest we need is at the level of the soul. That is to say, even physical sleep sometimes doesn’t refresh us the way we need. This is also to say that if we receive the rest our souls need, we can endure difficult and pain-filled seasons of life because we are buttressed in a manner that really matters.
Other times we may have already given-in to any variety of temptations to do something our way versus God’s and thus find ourselves disappointed, separated and distant from God. The core issue we need to grasp behind these temptations is the spiritual component to them. The common thread to every temptation is the temptation to sin. Sin is not only an act or state of disobedience to God but is what creates the spiritual barrier between us and God**. To put an asterisk on this point, Jesus understands this:
And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come…Luke 17:1 (ESV)
Thus, in order to gain the rest we need, we need communion with God but in order to commune with God we need to deal with the sin that may be hindering communion. In this sense, we realize that true rest is spiritual.
REST FOR THE WEARY
In part, the reason the counseling industry exists is because people are weary, and they are weary at the level of the soul. No other means of rest will satisfy unless it is a rest that comes from the Lord. If you are weary, then let me offer a three-step process to begin reorienting your heart and mind unto finding rest in the Lord.
1. ADMIT YOUR WEARINESS AND YOUR NEED
You cannot find the rest your soul needs unless you see the extent of the need. The extent of the need is soul-level need, and the primary way to access the rest is to admit in your heart and say with your lips, “I need you, Jesus. I am weary from taking matters into my own hands. I cannot proceed any longer in this way. I need you now.”
2. BELIEVE THAT ONLY JESUS CAN HELP
The second step is to believe in your heart that Jesus can and will supply the rest you need. But you need to take one step further by believing that Jesus is the only one who can help. A counselor will not give you rest; a pastor, mentor, coach, parent, spouse, best friend will not give you the rest your soul needs. This isn’t because they don’t love you or don’t want to. Rather, they are not able.
“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 (NIV)
Just picture in your mind’s eye someone else other than Jesus saying this to you. It’s almost laughable, but not in a condescending sense. Rather, like when a 5-year old child puts on daddy’s shoes, kind of laughable. On the other hand, if there is a person promising this to you and they are serious, then let me advise you to kindly turn down the offer because in the end you will be sadly disappointed.
3. COME TO JESUS
The writer of John had a very simple message about Jesus. He wanted us to know that Jesus was the savior of the world and that through him would come the kingdom of God. In the opening lines of John’s letter, he writes,
“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”John 1:12-13 (NIV)
Coming to Jesus is a two-fold thing: (1) Receiving him and (2) Believing in his name.
If we want to receive the rest for our souls which Jesus himself promises (See Matthew 11:28-30), we must receive him and believe in him. When you receive Jesus, you receive the rest you need. To say another way, the rest you need for your soul is a person. To receive Jesus is to receive rest.
Don’t go it alone. If you are unsure about Jesus, then speak with someone who knows Jesus. This may be a christian counselor, a friend from work or even family member. The weary in heart, the burdened soul; the man and woman who’ve been beaten up with temptation and struggling with the sin to manage life on their own terms can find the needed rest in Jesus. Jesus knows our soul-need and is ready to provide rest for the weary.
* To be clear, Jesus was sinless see 2 Cor 5:21; 1 John 3:5
** To be clear, we are sinners by nature. We can’t help but sin or struggle with sin. See Romans 5:12; 7:17-25