What is rest? A lonely stretch of pristine beach on a tropical island? The smell of pine and hot chocolate wafting through a cozy cabin?
How about a congested child at 3 a.m.? A pressing project with key team members out sick? A friend’s broken heart in the middle of finals week?
God’s ways are not our ways. We might conceive of rest as a comfortable escape from challenges. In contrast, Jesus couples rest with burdens. The two exist in tandem—which, if we think about it, makes sense. We don’t need rest unless we’ve been contending with a burden.
When we’re in the thick of ministering at work, with our families, or at our churches, we are expending our everything—our intellect, creativity, empathy, strength—and we will inevitably run out . . . of everything. There’s a limit to our capacity. There’s a wall we are destined to hit.
Jesus meets us at the wall and says, lovingly, “Is that all you’ve got?” It’s not a question posed to shame us; instead, it’s an invitation to lean into Him with our exhaustion and burdens. He tears down the wall of human capacity and establishes peace—and rest—when we trust Him in the thick of our challenges. Rest is leaning into Jesus when the circumstances look desolate.
The disciples saw crowds hungry for Jesus and starving for bread, and their response was to send them away. Jesus wanted the disciples to know that He can provide the impossible, even in the most desolate places. He multiplied five loaves and two fish into a bounty with twelve baskets of leftovers—one for each disciple! Rest is trusting Jesus to feed you so that you can feed others.
But there’s more. The disciples weren’t merely contending with hungry crowds, but with profound grief, following John the Baptist’s beheading (Mark 6:14– 29). Their friend was executed as payment for a dance—unjust, brutal . . . tragic. Their hearts were broken, but the people kept coming. Hungry.
Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28–30 help illuminate this passage in Mark: “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.”