For those of us who struggle with fear and anxiety, peace seems like a fleeting feeling or even an elusive dream. Our minds race, our hearts worry, and we can’t seem to find a moment of quiet amid all the possible things that could go wrong in life.
But for all who are willing to look closely at their hearts and then beyond themselves toward God, there is good news. Peace is accessible. Quietness of soul is possible.
Look to the words of Jesus Christ: “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” (Matt. 11:28-30).
Jesus was talking to a large crowd of people who were intrigued by His teaching but not certain of what it meant to follow Him. He used the analogy of a yoke put over an ox to force it to obey its master to help people understand the difference between a relationship with Him and a life of mere religious practice. Rules and regulations obligate you to a master whom you hope will like you enough to bless you. But Jesus invites you into His peace: His yoke is easy and His burden is light. In other words, loving Him and following Him become a joy and a privilege rather than a burden of obligation.
Finding rest for your soul comes at a cost, though. Coming to Jesus requires that you lose whatever illusion of control you once had. But let’s face it: You never had control of your life. Fear and anxiety are proof that life has become unmanageable. When you recognize this fact and bring your burden to Jesus, He will take it. But you have to actually give it to Him. So many of us want to come to Jesus and ask for His help, but we aren’t actually willing to let Him have control of the outcomes. We secretly hope we can make life work for ourselves and just have Him walk behind us, making sure any messes are cleaned up. This is not what He means when He invites us to take His yoke and learn from Him. Because He is “gentle and lowly in heart,” He asks no less of us. He wants us to humble ourselves and trust that He knows how to handle our troubles better than we do.
Choosing to trust your own mind and heart instead of Him reveals a deeper problem. When you decide the outcome of your own life, when you choose your own destiny, you become the god of your life. You sit on the throne, and this is a recipe for disaster. But even more, being on the throne of your life means you have tried to dethrone God, attempting to take His place. In addition to lacking trust in God, you are choosing yourself as god and sinning against Him.
Maybe the concept of sin is foreign to you, or maybe you have just ignored sin long enough that it doesn’t seem like a big deal. But our sin completely separates us from God. And it’s not like a stain we can wash off with good deeds; sin is rooted in us from the beginning. We cannot clean ourselves up, which is why we need a Savior. Jesus’ invitation to come to Him and find rest includes a confession of belief that He alone can rescue us.
Listen to the words of the apostle Paul: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve” (1 Cor. 15:3-5).
This is the truth of the good news of Jesus Christ. He was sent by God the Father to ransom us, and He did this by sacrificing His own life and dying the brutal death we deserved for our sin. When He rose from the dead three days later, He proved that He controls everything, even death. He proved Himself to be God, and He made a way for us to be called into God’s family for all eternity. When Jesus ascended into heaven, He left us the beautiful gift of the Holy Spirit to counsel us and guide us into wisdom. So unlike all other religions that require people to remember and follow rules in order to please a god, Christianity involves a deep relationship with a God who communes with His people and actually lives in their midst. What an incredible gift!
But, once you’ve become a believer in Christ, how do you begin to trust Him with your life? As you move forward, here are some simple steps you can take to move toward greater trust in His goodness and love:
- Begin with confession. Honestly come to Him and admit that you haven’t trusted Him. Talk to Him about the ways you’ve trusted in yourself instead. Ask Him to turn your heart toward Him and give you godly sorrow over your sin of trying to dethrone Him.
- Grow in trust by meditating on the truth of God’s Word. Psalm 9, Psalm 56, Ephesians 2:1-16 and Hebrews 10:19-25 are good places to start. Read the passages slowly and write prayers of reflection, confession and adoration to God.
- Repeat steps one and two over and over. You have formed habits in your mind and heart, habits that automatically lean toward anxiety and fear when life gets hard. This is the time to form new habits of turning to God when you are afraid instead of to your own understanding. This is a discipline that will take time, effort, prayer and accountability from others.
God wants to show Himself to you and invite you into His rest. Let us stop running from Him and run toward Him, laying our burdens, fears and anxieties at His feet.