December is a terrible yet glorious time of the year for a college student. It is terrible because most of you are running on fumes trying to pull all-nighters as you pay for your procrastination while simultaneously trying to learn 10 weeks of missed lectures for your final exams. At the same time, it is a glorious time because winter break is right around the corner and you can’t wait to finally rest from the busyness of school.
We can all agree that everyone loves the idea of rest but have you ever stopped to consider what your picture of rest actually looks like? Does it look like sleeping in everyday to your heart’s desire and vegging out to Netflix on your couch? Maybe it looks like “getting outta here” and exploring the wilderness while posting on Snapchat to satisfy your adventurous soul. For some guys, it might look like a healthy mix of League of Legends, Final Fantasy XV and cup ramen. Or for a lot of us, it might look like a steady lineup of retreats and serving at church.
I’m not writing this article to say that any of those “pictures” of rest are intrinsically bad. However, one thing I do notice every year is that collegians don’t really have an intentional plan on how they are going to find rest during the winter break largely because a lot of us just don’t know what finding rest looks like biblically.
As much as I would like to simplify the practicalities and just give you “5 Tips to Find Rest”, the biblical picture of rest does not operate like a BuzzFeed article. Typically, you would expect rest to be found in certain activities like reading or refraining from certain duties you are used to doing. This is precisely what makes Jesus’ picture of rest so different from any worldly self-help book or article.
In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus clearly states that the way for the weary, burdened and tired soul to find rest is not through a method but through Jesus Himself. Have you ever asked yourself what made you so burnt out and tired in the first place? Is it really the school work or is it the underlying beliefs behind the school work that have become so exhausting?
One thing I have noticed after talking with a lot of college students is that it is very easy for what you do to slowly start to define and become who you are. When this happens, your failures over the course of the quarter/semester burden you more than they should – and your successes matter more than they should as well. When you get an “F”, it no longer means that you failed a test; it now means that you are a failure. When you get an “A”, it longer means that you are a steward of God’s grace in your studies as a student; it means you better keep it up because your grades determine your identity. When this starts to happen, you can’t help but feel an immense weight of burden and weariness and the reality is that our natural tendency is to want to place our identities in our actions.
So understandably, when winter break finally arrives, the natural desire of your heart is to do just that: take a break. The problem with this approach is that it assumes that the issue is just a wearied body when in reality the root issue is a wearied soul. Whether you like it or not, you have been bombarded these past few months with certain beliefs and worldviews that essentially tell you that your value is found in what you do. This is why no amount of sleep, Netflix or video games will help you to truly find rest this winter break in the way that Jesus wants to give it to you.
The reason that Jesus invites you to Himself as the source of rest is because it is only through spending intentional time with Him and re-orienting your heart towards the Gospel that you will be able to find true rest. A rest that reminds you that you are loved, accepted and secure no matter what exciting or bleak circumstances you may be in. Rest that assures you that you are beautiful just as you are and that you don’t have to compare yourself to “her” or “him” or that picture on Instagram. Rest that encourages you that the work that you are doing is not in vain and that living for Jesus is the best way to spend your time in your college years. Rest that gives you the deepest confidence that nothing can alter who you are in Christ.
One thing I know for sure is that spending intentional time with Jesus is usually the easiest to remove from the “to-do” list once school gets busy. So, this winter break, I highly encourage you to take Jesus’ invitation to come to Him and to make it a point to find rest in Him.