Rest for a While
Faith is challenging because we are striving to maintain our faith while also facing a world of difficulties and trials. We don’t always understand why things happen the way they do or exactly how our trials fit into God’s purposes. We know that “the testing of your faith produces endurance” (Jas 1:3), but that does not make it easy when the pressures of life are bearing down. Do we not imagine that Jesus’ disciples felt this way at times?
John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus, but his death would have been difficult to accept (Mark 6). He gave his life doing exactly what God wanted from him. How would the disciples have felt when they heard that John had been beheaded? What kinds of questions would they have had? Why would God have allowed this to happen this way? And, of course, they would feel a similar sting when James the apostle was also put to death in Acts 12. They would indeed have to face the same persecutions and trials that John faced. Even more, they would have to be willing to face what Jesus faced as He went to His death. Is this really what the kingdom of God would allow?
Surely the disciples had to reassess their understanding of the kingdom of God. They had to come to grips with the idea that God reigned over all, yet at the same time allowed the persecutions, trials, and deaths of those who were dedicated servants. This, of course, was also following in steps of the prophets of old who endured mistreatments and sufferings for the sake of God. Even though they should not have been surprised at any of this happening, there still would have been difficulty accepting it when it did happen.
Being a disciple of Jesus would be hard work. They faced all kinds of trials, rejections, and discouraging situations. This was countered by the fact that they also witnessed the great works and miracles of Jesus. They stood in the very presence of God manifested in the flesh, and this would have been encouragement beyond words. Jesus knew exactly what they needed, and He would indeed come to their aid. He knew when they needed some rest:
“Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest for a while” (Mark 6:31, CSB).
“The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all that they had done and taught,” we are told. They barely had time to eat. But now, after all the difficulties, they needed to rest. They needed a time for peace and to regroup.
The world is busy, and, if we let ourselves, we can get so caught up in what's going on around us that we scarcely have time to rest or find some peace. This is not just resting from physical labor. This is about taking real rest. Calm your mind. Think on God's peace and forgiveness. Get away from the hustle of the world and relax. The Lord knew the disciples needed it, and I believe He knows we need it today, too. Lest we overload ourselves with the cares and worries of this world (Luke 8:14), lest we become distracted, worried, and bothered about the lesser matters that may cause us to be choked (Luke 10:41), we need time to rest in order to refresh and regroup.
There is always the danger of going too far in the other direction. Too much rest could mean that we are lazy. In our culture, the danger seems more to be distractions with the mundane. Recreation and entertainment can become our idols. There is irony in this, for while recreation and entertainment can be forms of getting away from stress, these can also become sources of stress.
But there is much greater rest that only Jesus can offer: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt 11:28-29).
Get away from the crowds. Lower the volume of life. Go to a remote place and find some rest. Read your Bible. Think about God. Pray. Let God's peace fill you up. Then, take your place back in the world and let your light shine so that God will be glorified: “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:16).
Recall the words of Paul: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7).