Read first: Matthew 8:20 // Psalm 84:11
In Matthew chapter 8, a scribe approaches Jesus to announce his intention to be His disciple. Scribes were esteemed teachers of the Jewish law, and were often grouped with the Pharisees when Jesus would pronounce judgement on them for being hypocritical and legalistic (Matthew 23). For a scribe to proclaim that Jesus was someone worth following was a big deal. He comes to Jesus and boldly declares, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
We might expect a commendation or word of celebration from Jesus. Instead, he replies, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” I enjoy camping, but I like to decide the when and the where. I am far less attracted to a life of “nowhere to lay my head.” But Jesus knew what he was doing. He’s not much for the “bait-and-switch.” He was telling the scribe, “If you want to follow me, you have to be okay with not settling into comfortability. You have to be okay with not digging your roots too deep. You have to be okay with knowing this world is not your home. You have to be okay with being a sojourner.”
There is a poetic beauty in paradox. The Christian life is full of these beautiful, paradoxical truths. To lead well, you must be a servant. To experience the abundant life, you must die to yourself. To be first, you must be last. And to find rest, you must be restless.
One of my favorite songs is Andrew Peterson’s “Is He Worthy?” It begins with the question, “Do you feel the world is broken?” As we move through the seemingly barren spaces and rocky terrains of our everyday, we are reminded in many ways that the world is broken. The next line of the song asks, “Do you feel the shadows deepen?” Of course, we answer, “We do.” The world is a dark place. It’s a broken place. As followers of Jesus, we may look at all of the darkness and brokenness around us and ask God, “Why am I here?” I don’t mean that we ask the age-old question, “Why do I exist,” but, “Why am I here?”—right here, in this moment in history and time, and in this very place?
There are many instances in the Bible where God has called people into places of wilderness. God called Abraham out from his family on a journey to an unknown place. God led His people on a journey of 40 years to the Promised Land. God sustained Hagar and Ishmael in the desert wilderness when they were sent away by Sarah and Abraham. Times of wilderness are not unknown to God’s people.
Do you feel like you’re in a place of wandering in the wilderness? Do you feel like you don’t know what’s next for your life? You’re in good company. Don’t despise the restlessness. Walking with Jesus means that we are no longer at rest in the world. It means we experience a healthy restlessness. When we think of putting our roots down deep and settling into the world and the culture we’re living in, we should feel restless. It is no accident that we speak of following Jesus in the vernacular of movement. Follow. Walk. Sojourn. But here’s the good news: we don’t sacrifice rest. On this amazing journey we walk with Jesus every day, we find perfect peace and rest in Him. He is our rest. St. Augustine said it best: “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” You may be in the wilderness, but as long as your gaze is fixed on Jesus, you’re not lost. You can be at rest in Him.
Don’t be overwhelmed or discouraged by restlessness. God is still fighting your battles. Jesus is still your rest. Read the Psalm below and pray it over yourself. Be encouraged!
“For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” —Psalm 84:11