Parents know the feeling. You’re exhausted and looking forward to just a moment of rest… and then your child needs you. We’ve all been there. We’ve likely all reacted in a variety of ways. Sometimes with frustration, sometimes with reluctant acceptance, perhaps a few of you may have even responded with joy. But the fact is, even when we’re ready for rest, others around us who need our attention may not be ready to be without us.
Pastors also have those moments. Perhaps Friday is their day off, they’ve prepared their Sunday sermon, counselled a few couples, visited a sick person at the hospital, responded to a late night call from a church member… it’s been a busy week. Then Friday comes, they’re ready for their ‘day of rest’ but others around them (either more church members or their family) is still in need of them.
Responding to people in need when you’re exhausted and in need of rest can be difficult. But once again, Jesus sets the example for us. He had sent out the disciples, they preached repentance, and healed many sick. They returned to Jesus, exhausted. “And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.” (Mark 6:31-34)
Jesus recognized the need for rest and attempted to bring His disciples to a place (away from others) where they could rest. Despite this attempt to get to a place of rest, a need was still there. Jesus ‘had compassion’ on them. He saw their need and responded to it.
It is because of this response that I look at Matthew 11:28 differently. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” I don’t believe Jesus is focusing on the physical rest here. Being ‘heavy laden’ would have more to do with an emotional state than a physical one. When we have a heavy burden, a lot of stress and feel mentally and emotionally exhausted, He will give you rest. Cast your burdens upon Him and He will give you a type of peace you cannot achieve with physical rest.
It’s true that we sometimes get to a point of physical exhaustion but usually that moment when we need rest, comes from being mentally exhausted. Go to Him and He have compassion on you will give you rest.