by Tom Greggs.
For a long time, until in fact it became so tatty that it was falling apart, a postcard sat above my desk. The title of the postcard was God’s Filofax, and it was a diary page which followed through Monday to Sunday with the different things God created on each day – night and day; sun and moon; plants; animals; and so forth. On the last day in the same pen and handwriting was written ‘every lasting peace and happiness’. In a red pen, it was crossed out and the word ‘REST’ was written, circled and underlined.
It’s quite a remarkable thought to think that God rests. The world is such a busy place. A place so filled with all kinds of competing demands on us. It is a place where we can rush to fill our time with all kinds of good, well intentioned, activities. But rest and not work is the climax of creation.
We tend to behave as if creation is made for work—as if that is its purpose. Perhaps we have seen the t-shirts, mugs and badges, saying ‘Jesus is coming! Look busy’? Or else, we’ll have seen the ‘Keep calm and carry on’ brand. Life, at the moment, is all about getting the most out of people–optimal engagement with work—prime efficiency. Everything is ordered towards a busy life and saving time. We use dishwashers and food-processors. Everything is about how quick we can get something done in a fast food and microwave culture. To help us keep calm and carry one, we shove other jobs off to other people or technology. There are even robotic vacuums and even robotic lawnmowers. Our vague attempts at getting rest come from shifting work away, but usually so that we can fill the time with something which we perceive to be more profitable.
Working, being busy, becomes almost a part of our identity – perhaps especially as Christians. But I am really struck by the fact that rest is something we should not squeeze in when we have earned it and completed it, but something that we are given by grace and should receive as a gift. It might be tempting to think that rest is the thing we get when we have finished our work – and when the work isn’t finished we don’t get any. But for Christians, this is key: even if in the seven day creation account rest follows the six days of God’s work of creation, in Christianity the order is reversed. We celebrate Sunday as our day of rest – the first day of the week, not the last. It is not that we work to receive the Sabbath, but that we have Sabbath rest as a gift before we work; it is a grace to us.
All well and good in theory, we might say; but that’s like telling a person swimming to shore they need to stop! We need to get to the shore first, and only then can we rest. However, we are wrong when we think rest comes from stopping and simply doing nothing. True rest is about coming to Christ. It is rest that can be found when we feel like we are drowning because it is a rest that looks to Him who walks to us on the water in the storms of life. Rest involves finding space and time to be with Christ who takes away our burdens, who lifts our yoke. We will never find rest if we work at finding it for ourselves; but only if we seek rest in Christ. We are to share in the rest of the One who gives His rest to us as a gift and as a grace.
St Augustine famously said: ‘Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.’ Stopping from the chores of daily life one thing; but the chores will be there the next day. Stopping from the chores of daily life and spending time with Christ, in His rest, is a different thing altogether. He is the One who enables us to be perfected through His power in our weakness. He is the One who enables us to see the world differently. He doesn’t a take a yolk away; instead, He gives us His own. He makes us see what true work is—an act of love that flows from the grace of rest. Teresa of Avila talks of how ‘love turns work into rest’. Learning to love again in the assurance of the love of Christ, regardless of our works, enables us to work in His strength, to see all we do as an exercise motivated by love as a free response to unearned grace.
 Augustine, Confessions 1,1.5.
 Teresa of Avila, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila: Volume 1 (ICS Publications, 1976), 448.
One thought on “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Thank you, Tom, for this timely piece.
As Jesus slept in the boat during a storm in which the disciples feared for their lives, he demonstrated the level of rest afforded to those who have total trust in God.
This morning I read the beautiful poem written by the poet laureate, Simon Armitage, in tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth. It likens her majesty to her favourite flower, Lily of the Valley. Though she now claims her eternal rest, her beauty and fragrance will live on to inspire and delight all who were blessed by her comforting presence over the 70 years of her reign.
‘Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord,
Let perpetual light shine upon her,
And may she rest in peace.’ Amen.