If Jesus Gives Me Rest, Why am I So Restless?


Leadership is broken because leaders are unbroken

When most of us think of rest we think of a rockin’ chair on the front porch, a cool glass of ice tea, and a beautiful sunset at the end of a hard day’s work. Now that’s sweet rest. It’s just not the kind of rest Jesus offers and not the kind of rest that will relieve our restlessness.

It’s clear that when Jesus thought of rest He had work in mind. I mean, what else could He have been thinking of when He said, “Take my yoke upon you . . . and I will give you rest.” To me, a yoke means work, hard work.

The problem with many of us is that we’re not even thinking of rest. We’re thinking of success. The thing that makes so many of us restless is the stress of success. Now that’s not rest. That’s really hard—and often futile—work.

The real issue is that we’re on the wrong side of the yoke. We’re on the pulling side of the yoke rather than the resting side of the yoke. We think the results are up to us, that we have to motivate and drive our followers, that we have to cajole and manipulate them so they will be fruitful for the Lord and we can feel successful. That’s because what we mean by being fruitful for the Lord is being successful in our own eyes. Empty seats fill up, budgets bulge, buildings sprout, and all of this can be true, but if it wears us and our followers out because it‘s the fruit of our drivenness and not Christ’s meekness, it’s not true success. We crave recognition, demurely, of course: some focus on the empty chairs more than the full ones; we become angry because our followers won’t support our vision; we lose hope because we see no way to accomplish what we want to do. No wonder we don’t have any rest. All the work is on our backs because all the results are up to us. You know the real issue? Our identity is at stake, and there’s no rest when everything rides on your identity.

But the rest Jesus speaks of it means getting life off our backs and on to His. It’s release from the stress of success and the pressure of results. It means His identity is at stake because He’s the one doing the work and getting the results through us. He does intend for us to work. He does want us to be in the yoke with Him, but it’s His yoke that He pulls with us, not our yoke that we pull in His name. We are at rest when we release the results to Him.

Does this mean we have no focus on results? Of course not. Paul focused on results and held Timothy and Titus accountable for the assignments he gave them. He himself had the massive target of going where no man had gone before with the Gospel. But Paul makes it clear that his identity did not hang on his results and that he himself did not produce his results. It was the grace of God partnering with him that produced his impact (I Cor. 15:9-10), and it was Christ’s power mightily empowering him that enabled him to attain his life goal (Col. 1:29).

For Paul life was not on his back; it was on Christ’s back. And his identity and authority as an apostle didn’t depend on what he did but on what Christ did in and through him. That’s why, even when he faced an unjust arrest and ultimately an unrighteous death, he was at rest, full of confidence that he had done what he could and should have done.

Rest: getting life and its results off your back and on to His. The next time you feel the stress of success, take an hour and give that stress to Him and find out that His burden is light and His yoke is easy. It’s no rockin’ chair, but it’s no heart full of anger either.

From "If Jesus Gives Me Rest, Why am I So Restless?" on

Bill Lawrence is the President of Leader Formation International, Senior Professor Emeritus of Pastoral Ministries and Adjunct Professor of DMin Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary where he served full-time for twenty-four years (1981-2005). During this time he also was the Executive Director of the Center for Christian Leadership for twelve years.