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“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

—Matthew 11:28-30

Deep down, everyone longs for a simpler life. Deeper down, all of us know that we are our own worst enemies in achieving that kind of life.

Simon Whitfield, the triathlete who won gold for Canada at the 2000 Olympics in Australia, did something about that longing for simplicity. After his Olympic success he moved to an artistic and ecologically sensitive community in Saltspring Island, British Columbia. By adopting a simpler lifestyle, he feels less driven and generally happier. Whereas he used to be the kind of person who had to have the latest gadget, he says that he is now more easily content with what he already has.

Like Whitfield, many city folks also dream of a more restful life. As part of that dream, they may buy a cottage or cabin, imagining idyllic days, an easygoing lifestyle, and less stress. Unfortunately, many of them end up applying urban standards to their new rural surroundings.

The result? Cottages that are more accurately called houses, lawns that take hours to tend, and double mortgages that force people to work even harder to make the payments. Is this the simple life? More like the frantic life.

So what’s the answer? Changing our exterior surroundings can help to some degree. A restful room in our homes or a favorite place to retreat can do wonders for our harassed spirits. But nothing works like changing our interior landscape. That’s where Jesus comes in. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,” Jesus said. “I will give you rest.”

Before he says, “Go,” to disciples Jesus says, “Come.” I visualize him patting the space beside him, inviting me to come and sit for a spell.

I imagine him speaking directly to my heart with words that confront me and also comfort me. As I visualize myself sitting beside him and taking in his wonderful words, I can feel my spirit lifting, my courage returning, and my sense of purpose sharpening. By relinquishing control and allowing Jesus to be my Master, I receive his beautiful gift of shalom.

Most of our cultural role models are restless people who have become celebrities by virtue of their relentless pursuit of fame, wealth, or success. “Do this,” one person says. “No, that,” advises someone else. The next time you look at a newsstand stocked with magazines, remember that the pictures on most of the covers feature the current crop of driven celebrities pushing our world to the brink of insanity.

Tragically, contemporary Christianity is often more a reflection of our driven culture than a countercultural model of a different way of life, a truly restful life. By focusing on programs instead of relationships, the church is often guilty of leaving people lonely for the personal touch that everyone needs. By emphasizing legalities and impossible standards of holiness and purity, church leaders often place unbearable yokes on weary shoulders.

Jesus does not do any of that. “I am gentle and humble in heart,” he says, showing us his interior landscape. “My yoke is easy and my burden is light,” he concludes, offering us a simpler life built on the gentle peace that he lived to give.

The call to discipleship is a call to a simpler life, a gentler life, a more contented life. It is about letting Jesus quietly sit in your heart. It gains control by giving control over to the Master. It finds rest by losing anxiety through the restful realization that the Lord is near.

To Think About

  • Where do you feel harassed or driven?
  • How can you restore simplicity to your life? Where will you begin?
  • Is it possible to be restful while working hard?

This article was excerpted from the book Follow Me: Daily Readings for Disciples, co-authored by Peter Slofstra and Peter Schuurman as part of the Disciples series from Faith Alive Christian Resources.

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