When I was in my twenties, I had an opportunity to do a mountain bike exertion that would involve quite a distance for the entire day. The plan was to bike all morning, stop for lunch and spend the rest of the afternoon heading back to camp. I wasn’t exactly in the most exceptional shape when I was asked to join this exertion. I wasn’t unhealthy or overweight by any means, but my cardio and stamina weren’t exactly marathon-worthy. I loved the idea of being someone who could make a long-haul mountain bike trip and could have easily pictured myself getting into something like that, but what one imagines and what is reality are two different things. I knew if I would have any chance of surviving the trip, I needed to get some real experience under my belt. So I trained for a few months before the actual camp and became quite good at it. But in the end, nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to experience.
The first part of the trek went quite well. My enthusiasm, training, and adrenaline got me to the halfway point. We stopped for lunch, and we had a spectacular view of the entire valley (you could see for miles). We ate, laughed, and we eventually headed back to camp. As we got going, my energy and enthusiasm were still quite high, but it wasn’t long before that started to wane. Not only that, but we started getting low on water, and the closer we got, the longer the distance began to feel.
With about a mile left, I faced what endurance athletes would call “hitting a wall”. I remember the pain, the sheer fatigue my body was facing and every ounce of my body, mind and soul wanted to give up, fall over, and die. It didn’t help that I had completely run out of water by this point, which only added to my exhaustion. I remember merely focusing on one idea, “One more pedal. One more pedal!” I kept visualizing pulling into the camp, ditching this bike forever, and crashing into my bed to sleep for eternity! And so I pressed on!
Well, needless to say, I made it back to camp, and I survived to tell the tale. All jokes aside, as we venture through life, it can sometimes feel like an endurance race that never seems to end and with the state that the world is in today, this idea is only exasperated. Many times we can start new adventures with all the enthusiasm and optimism in the world, and we inevitably get hit with a shot of reality. Be it a hurdle that wants to slow us down, a tragedy that we never planned to face, or in the everyday grind that we have found ourselves.
Even on the best of days, we can find ourselves walking through this life on autopilot and exhausted but when life hits us hard, our ambitions can be fully depleted. But, the reality is, this was never the ultimate intent God had for us in our existence — to find ourselves burnt out on life, depressed, tired, ready to quit, striving every day for something brighter, something greater, something alive. Jesus speaks into this reality with a simple yet profound invitation:
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” — Matt 11:28–30 NLT
When you read these words, don’t they resonate with you? I can almost hear you saying softly under your breath, “Oh, how I could use that in my life!”. Maybe you have read these words so many times that the familiarity of them has caused them to lose their impact. It can help to see the words in a new light. Look at how Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. — Matt 11:28–30 MSG
There is just something that is innately wired into our DNA, something deep down in our souls that yearns for this reality and wishes to persevere and hope for something better! To trade a burnt-out life for the unforced rhythms of grace and find real rest and hope for our lives. But you may also be asking the question: “What does this peace Jesus is speaking have to do with hope? To give us a clue of how peace and hope work together, let’s look in the book of Acts as Peter gives us a clue to the secret of hope found in this rest. Peter stands to address to the crowd that has gathered to witness what we now call Pentecost:
Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him:
I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest in hope,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
you will not let your holy one see decay.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.
— Acts 2:22–28 NIV emphasis added
It was part of God’s deliberate cosmic plan for Christ to come and set us free from the state of things that we created and anchor us to something divine and greater than ourselves or our circumstances. What Peter is touching on and Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11 is intimately tied to this divine idea of hope. He calls to those who are burnt out and invites us out of that state into something greater than we could ever imagine because He ultimately makes a new way to be able to live this out. To live the “unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11:30b).
To be clear, I am not talking about an easy life with no challenges but a life that Jesus calls us to that despite the circumstances we face, there is a hope that anchors us to not only weather the storms of life but also to navigate us through them. The hope we are talking about is a supernatural rest & peace found in the mess and chaos of life and it even transforms that mess and chaos towards further hope.
Notice, also, I used the words “live this out” because ultimately the rest Jesus is inviting us to isn’t a passive one. This call of resting in hope isn’t about doing nothing and stopping all activity for a zen-like state of nothingness. Quite the opposite! It is an active call to a life full of purpose, freedom, power, and ultimately, a life full of hope! Hope is something that is about what is before us and drives us to move forward and so; it demands movement. But please don’t misread me, this call of Jesus, this alternative way, isn’t one that needs constant striving that brings us to the point of burnout, either. It is the ultimate design and “unforced rhythms of grace” in our lives. The burden He gives us is one that will not crush us but gives us life and life that provides us with a real hope-filled life.
This invitation that Jesus offers is astronomically more profound and more divine than we could even imagine. It is a calling to a way of life that both anchors our souls (Hebrews 6:19) and propels us to new heights (Isaiah 40:31). It empowers us to live the lives God intended us to live and become the people He made us to be. Hope, when grasped, uncovers a previously hidden reality. The author C.S. Lewis drove this idea home when he penned these words from his book “The Weight of Glory. Let me leave them with you to meditate on as a prayer for your soul.
It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.