Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
These are the words that Jesus gives us at the end of Matthew 11. He gives this invitation in the context of the intimate relationship between the Father and the Son, and the revelation of the Father to those whom the Son chooses to show him.
In this context of intimacy and revelation comes the promise of rest. And it’s an extremely enticing one. We are living in a culture that moves at a frenetic pace. We never seem to have enough time for even the basics like cleaning, work, laundry and sleep. But for most of us when we finally have a free moment or the desire to pick up a Bible and read God’s word, rest is not what we feel.
What do we feel? Maybe shame. Maybe guilt. In fact these are often the feelings we have in general towards God and his word. Why? Because like lots of other places in our lives as women, reading and knowing the Bible is just one more place where we don’t measure up. We don’t read enough, know enough, or talk enough about it. For those of us who have young children, difficult children, careers, parents for which we are caring, or a myriad of other time demanding responsibilities, studying the word takes the back seat. And we feel bad about it.
I’m not writing to give you a plan, a 3 step program, or a smart strategy for consistent bible reading. Because underneath our busyness and before all procedure or program, many of us must deal with how we feel about the one who waits to meet with us, and how we think he feels about us. Most of us imagine God waiting for us with a disappointed look and a wagging finger, like the algebra teacher that reprimands you for turning your assignment in late one more time. After a certain number of days or weeks, depending on your personality and the level of personal shame that you happen to carry around, the weight of the guilt we feel surpasses any benefit we think we might gain from reading the Bible or trying to communicate with its author. We don’t know exactly what to do with this guilt, and often don’t even have the time to think about it. So we give up the pursuit of studying God’s word altogether, until something convinces us that the equation has shifted.
Here’s a shift: God doesn’t love you based on your bible reading. I know you know this. I also know you don’t believe it. So here it is again. God doesn’t love you based on your bible reading. Or your praying. Or your goodness at all, for that matter. What if, instead of hiding from the disgruntled tyrant that Satan wants you to believe waits for you in God’s word, you chose to believe something else? What if he really was “gentle and lowly in heart” as he claims? What might his invitation sound like if we believed his self-description?
Jesus’summons to you is warm, compassionate, and kind. He doesn’t force; he invites. His appeal is never based on your work or worthiness, but on his. His tone, if we could hear him, would be full of kindness and understanding, because he sees you. He sees your struggle, your weariness, and all of your responsibilities. His request of your time is not because he needs you to fulfill a duty, but because he wants you to be seen and known and loved, just as you sit right now, reading these words. He doesn’t come to condemn or to shame you. He comes to invite you to a feast, the feast of his word.
So whatever form it might take, however you structure it, whether it is multiple chapters every day or one verse you hold in your mind for a month, know that the Lord will welcome you with tenderness. Take him at his word. Speak back to the lies that try to convince you that there is much work to do in order to get back into God’s good graces before you could actually expect to receive anything from him. Come not because you deserve rest, but because he bought it for you. Let the one who knew in the ultimate way what it is like to be heavy laden invite you to himself. And he will give you rest.
Editor’s Note: Christine Gordon’s Bible study on Philippians she co-wrote with Hope Blanton is available now. They also have studies available on Romans and 1 Samuel. To learn more, click here.
About the Author:
Chris Gordon and her husband, Michael, a teaching elder in the PCA, live with their three children in St. Louis, MO. She received her Master of Arts in Theological Studies at Covenant Seminary, where she swore to the registrar that she would not, under any circumstances, marry a pastor. We all see how that went. She is quirky, loves to dance, cannot multi-task to save her life, and regularly embarrasses her children.