Into the very fabric of creation, God established that life was to be a rhythm of work and rest. We don’t take a day of rest because there is nothing else to do but because we trust God to be our provider and our security. Sabbath is just as much about our declaration of God’s strength as it is an admission of our weakness.
In fact, the Sabbath principle does not play out with just one day a week. Our rest needs to include regular, sufficient sleep, a daily quiet time, annual vacations—and even generous giving, as it, too, is a declaration that God is our provider and we ultimately put our trust in him to make ends meet.
As you use all these ways to practice your Sabbath, you stop to proclaim Christ as your rest.
This is what Jesus is talking about 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” (ESV).
Sabbath is just as much about our declaration of God’s strength as it is an admission of our weakness.
This passage is confusing at first for many people. First, Jesus’ burden is light? Wasn’t his burden the cross, and isn’t that heavy?
Second, he’s offering the weary … a yoke? A yoke was a saddle the oxen wore to plow, and that sounds like the last thing tired workers need. How about a mattress or a vacation instead?
There is a time and season for the mattress and the vacation. But Jesus knows that if all he gave you is temporary escape, you’ll just go back to being stressed. So what he offers is not a getaway from life but a new way to go through life and bear its responsibilities. Instead of offering us escape from the pressures, he offers us new equipment to use to bear the pressures.
The yoke imagery encourages my weary soul. When you are yoked up with someone much stronger than you, the stronger person bears most of the weight. But it also reminds me that the kind of rest Christ offers is only available for the fully committed. A yoke ties one ox to the other—which means they can share the load, but they cannot travel separately.
The hardest way to live is the way most religious people do: Instead of surrendering fully to Jesus, they adopt a religious checklist of things they need to do to keep God happy. But this just makes them feel more burdened and busier. They are not getting the benefit of rest that comes from being fully committed and knowing that he is pulling most of the weight in the yoke.
This is not natural for me. Many days I labor under my own yoke. But there have been a few times—glorious and freeing—when I’ve begun to feel the rest of Christ’s yoke. What a difference it makes to get up each day and know that I am doing what Jesus has told me to do and that he’s promised to make it all work!
If you are ready to enter in to true rest, then you must learn both to take the Sabbath seriously and also to surrender fully to Christ’s yoke.