A biblical prescription for resolving stress,
from a Christian medical doctor
THERE are many verses and passages in the Bible which reveal to us some of the characteristics of a mind at ease; of these, perhaps the most helpful to consider is Matthew 11: 28,29. These well-known verses record for us the gracious invitation of the Lord Jesus, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
We have here two kinds of rest; a rest which is given to those who come to Jesus, and a rest which is found by those who take His yoke upon them, and learn of Him. I believe the first particularly refers to rest from the basic heart burdens which human beings carry because of sin and estrangement from God, and the second to that rest of heart and mind which is found by those who, having come to Jesus, go on to a life of submission to Him and learning of Him.
There may be one reading this who is battling with inner conflict and tension and who has not yet taken the first step of coming to Jesus and receiving Him as Savior and Lord, and so I would like to spend a little time in considering that first part of the Lord’s wonderful invitation.
In the Bible we find a number of basic heart burdens mentioned, from which Jesus gives us rest when we come to Him. These are all burdens which cause disruption and conflict in the personality.
The Burden of Sin
The first basic heart burden is that of SIN. In Psalm 38: 4 we read, “For mine iniquities have gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me.” Many are not even conscious of that burden, yet all the time it is there doing its disruptive work in the depths of their beings. From the beginning the essence of sin has been rebellion against God. Rebellion against its Maker cannot bring peace and rest to the personality. It is only by coming to Jesus that rest can be found from this burden of sin and rebellion. One of the most beautiful descriptions of the way man finds rest from this burden has been given to us in the PILGRIM’S PROGRESS. John Bunyan describes Christian as carrying a heavy burden from which he constantly sought rest. Then came a time in Christian’s journey when, John Bunyan tells us, “he came at a place somewhat ascending, and upon that place stood a cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more. Then was Christian glad and lightsome, and said with a merry heart, He hath given me rest by His sorrow, and life by His death. Then he stood awhile to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him that the sight of the cross should thus ease him of his burden … Then Christian gave three leaps of joy, and went on singing,
Thus far did I come laden with my sin;
Nor could aught ease the grief that I was in,
Till I came hither: what a place is this!
Must here be the beginning of my bliss ?
Must here the burden fall from off my back ?
Must here the strings that bound it to me crack ?
Blessed cross! blessed sepulchre! blessed rather be
The man that there was put to shame for me!”
It is because Jesus carried our burden of sin when He died upon the Cross, that He can give us rest from that burden when we come to Him.
The Burden of Self
Job knew another basic heart burden. We read in Job 7: 20, ” I am a burden to MYSELF.” Of course the burden of self and the burden of sin are really parts of the same burden, but there are many people who do not realize that they are burdened with sin, who yet do realize that they are carrying a burden of self. In my own experience, it was the knowledge that I was entirely self-centered, and that I could get no rest from myself, which caused me to come to Jesus. Our personalities were not made to be self-centered, they were made to be God-centered; it is sin that has made us wrongly centered, and this self-centeredness causes friction and conflict within us. There is only one way of receiving rest from this burden, it is to come to Jesus, Who took our old self-centered nature [the old man] to the Cross and Who can change us by His resurrection life lived in us by His Spirit, into being Christ-centered, so that we can say with Paul, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2: 20).
There is only one other burden which I would like to mention here, and that is the burden of OUTWARD RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCE WITHOUT SPIRITUAL LIFE, which Jesus Himself denounced in speaking of the Scribes and Pharisees. “They bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers ” (Matthew 23: 4). I believe there are many people today, suffering from conflict and tension, who are seeking to find a cure in outward religious observances, when they have not yet received inward spiritual life. They are seeking by good works, by Church-going, by Bible-reading, by prayer, by kindness, and such things, to please God in the hope that He will relieve them of their conflict and tension. In actual fact they discover that these things simply add to their burdens rather than bringing rest. Hebrews 4:10 tells us that “he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works.” There is a wonderful rest which Jesus gives to those who will drop all their efforts and come to Him in simple trust, believing that all that is necessary for salvation (the meaning of which includes being made whole), was done by Him when He lived, died, rose again, ascended to heaven, and sent to us the gift of His Holy Spirit.
“Weary, working, burdened one,
Wherefore toil you so ?
Cease your doing; all was done
Long, long ago.”
If we will come to Him, His own promise stands for ever sure, “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out “(John 6: 37).
Many young Christians become discouraged because they expect that, having come to the Lord Jesus, and having received this rest from basic heart burdens, they will know a lasting rest of mind and an end of conflict, and they find that this is not the case. For such, the second part of the Lord’s invitation is what is needed for consideration and response. There is still a rest of the whole personality which can only be found by taking His yoke and by learning of Him.
To be under the yoke in Bible times meant to be in SUBMISSION. Not only coming to Jesus Christ but real submission to Him is necessary if we are to find rest. There may be a definite transaction, when we submit ourselves fully to His rule. After that, we shall find that He works our submission out in our lives by opening up to us fresh areas in our personalities, in which we find that there is still conflict and rebellion. As He does that, and as we yield more and more of these areas in submission to Him, we find increasing rest. It is written of Him “of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end.”
“And as Thy kingdom doth increase,
So shall Thine ever-deepening peace.”
The yoke also speaks of SERVICE. The ox in the yoke is a picture of patient, steady, God-appointed labor. One characteristic of a mind at ease, is that it is a mind which is at rest in the midst of hard work and service for the Lord; it is a mind which is at rest because it has a God-appointed service to carry out. The Lord Jesus has a specific yoke for each one who belongs to Him; it may be in what is commonly known as Christian service, it may be in the humblest ordinary job; it may be in the Mission Field, it may be in an office, it may be in a home. Wherever it is, whatever it is, if it is known to be His yoke and accepted as such, it will bring rest.
“Peace, perfect peace, by thronging duties press’d?
To do the will of Jesus, this is rest.”
The Lord Jesus also tells us that we are to LEARN of Him if we would find rest to our souls. We never get beyond the need for learning from Him. Who teacheth like Him? What rest it brings to learn from Him, and yet how reluctant we often are to learn. I have found the Lord changing my prayer concerning lack of peace of mind, since I really thought about this invitation of the Lord Jesus. I used always to cry to the Lord for deliverance if I found I had lost my peace and rest, and plead with Him to give me a mind at ease. I now ask Him to teach me why I have become upset, why there is conflict when there should be peace. I then find that He teaches me what is the underlying cause of the unrest, and I can put that right. A willingness to learn is an outstanding characteristic of a mind at ease.
The Lord Jesus gave us a reason as to why we are to take His yoke upon us and learn of Him. That reason is that He is meek and lowly in heart. I think that this indicates that two great characteristics of a mind at ease are MEEKNESS and LOWLINESS. The Lord Jesus, when He walked this earth as the Son of Man, was subjected to all kinds of stress and strain, yet He never showed the slightest sign of abnormal mental tension. He suffered pressure from foes, pressure from friends, pressure from circumstances, pressure from Satan, physical, mental, and spiritual pressure; and yet through it all He had such peace that when we read His Words, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you,” our hearts know that that is the very kind of peace we want, His peace, which He displayed in the midst of all those pressures, when here on earth. Is He then telling us that the two characteristics of His wonderful personality which in particular made it possible for Him to have a mind at ease, are meekness and lowliness? I think He is. Let us think of those two characteristics.
The Characteristic of Meekness
Years ago I heard a godly minister say that in the meaning of the Greek word for meekness there is the thought of an animal being broken in. I have never forgotten that, but I have never found it written down until recently I read the following concerning the meaning of the Greek word ‘praus’ which is translated ‘meek’: “That brings us to the use of ‘praus’ which really illumines the whole matter. In Greek ‘praus’ is used in one special sense. It is used–as is ‘mitis’ in Latin–for a beast which has been tamed. A horse which was once wild but has become obedient to the bit and to the bridle is ‘praus’.”
So we can safely say that to be meek is to be broken in. Think of the young colt kicking and resisting the master’s controlling hand. Think of the ox when it is first put into the yoke, utterly rebellious, doing everything in its power to break free.
Then think of the same colt or the same ox, quiet, submissive, responding to every direction that its master gives; gentle and subdued so that its reaction to its master or to others need never be feared. What a picture of the meekness of Jesus. Not one trace of rebellion in Him, He came down from heaven to do the will of His Father not His own will (John 6: 38). All through His life He was utterly submissive to the directions of His Father, until at the end His very death and resurrection were in obedience to the Father’s command, “I have power to lay it (My life) down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father” (John 10: 18).
Not only was Jesus utterly submissive to the Father, but He was gentle (which is another meaning of ‘praus’) towards others. Never did He answer back when provoked, never was He resentful or bitter, the depths of that gentleness were revealed when, as they nailed Him to the Cross, He prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
In Isaiah 50: 5, 6 we have a description of the meekness of Jesus, “The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.”
The Characteristic of Humility
The word translated “lowly” is in other places translated “humble”. The second characteristic which is so wonderfully displayed in the life of the Lord Jesus is His humility. In Philippians 2:3-8 Paul tells us to have this same characteristic of mind that Jesus had, and he then tells us the two great marks of humility in the Lord Jesus. The first we find in verse 7, “He took upon Him the form of a servant.”
In Luke 22:27 we read the words of the Lord Himself, “I am among you as he that serveth.” His humility was shown by His willingness to serve others, even to washing the disciples’ feet, a task usually left to the lowest slave. The second mark of humility which Paul mentions is that “He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross”(verse 8).
Here then are the characteristics which we must learn of the Lord Jesus if we would find rest, if we would enjoy a mind at ease. Meekness from which all rebellion has been stripped, which is utterly submissive to God’s Will, accepting quietly everything which He brings into the life, and which shows itself in gentleness towards others; not resentful or unforgiving of any treatment received at the hands of others; and lowliness or humility, which shows itself in willingness to be a servant of all, and which submits to death, even the death of the cross.
Because that last point is so important in the finding of a mind at ease, and because nature is so deeply self-centered, I would like to say a little more about it. When Jesus died on the Cross He not only carried our sins, He carried our sinful human nature [the old man], and in His death made an end of the dominion and rule of that nature [Rom. 6:6]. He was then buried and rose from the dead into newness of life, which life He shares with us by His Holy Spirit. Because of His death He gives us the right to claim the breaking of the dominion and rule of the old sinful human nature, the self-life, and He asks us to be obedient to that death, as He was. For us, that means a willingness for the end of the rule of self or the old sinful human nature [the flesh – Rom. 7:18], and as we bow to that death of self, there is, manifested within us by His Spirit, the risen life of the Lord Jesus. We are then called upon to take up our cross daily, as the Lord Jesus puts it, submitting in every detail of our lives to the death of self that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal bodies [“Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh” 2 Cor. 4:10,11]. It is this life of Jesus Himself, set free within us by the humility which is obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, which brings His rest and His peace into our whole personalities.
Let me in closing, draw a brief word sketch of the one who is increasingly finding rest, and therefore enjoying a mind at ease. He or she is one who has come to Jesus with the burdens of sin and self and outward religious observances, and has left them at the Cross, receiving from Him the rest which He gives. He or she is one who is increasingly submitting to the dominion of Jesus, and to the service of Jesus; who is constantly willing and seeking to learn of Jesus, and who in particular is learning to allow His meekness and lowliness to manifest themselves in all the circumstances of life.
To such an one the promise is sure, “Ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
THE BLESSED SECRET
‘Be all at rest, my soul! ‘ Oh! blessed secret
Of the true life that glorifies thy Lord;
Not always doth the busiest soul best serve Him,
But he who resteth on His faithful word.
‘Be all at rest! ‘ for rest is highest service:
To the still heart God doth His secrets tell;
Thus shalt thou learn to wait, and watch, and labour,
Strengthened to bear, since Christ in thee doth dwell.
‘Be all at rest! ‘ for rest alone becometh
The soul that casts on Him its every care;
‘Be all at rest! ‘ so shall thy life proclaim Him
A God who worketh and who heareth prayer.
‘Be all at rest! ‘ so shall thou be an answer
To those who question, ‘Who is God, and where? ‘
For God is rest, and where He dwells is stillness,
And they who dwell in Him that rest shall share.”
 A NEW TESTAMENT WORDBOOK by William Barclay.
 For clarification on the distinction between the “old man” and the “the flesh” see GraceNotebook.com “definitions,” and Grace Note: “Jekyll of Hyde?” – JBW
 Poem by FREDA HANBURY ALLEN.
Other verses and passages which are helpful in contributing to a mind at ease: Proverbs 17: 22 with Philippians 4: 4. Matthew 6: 24-34. Psalms 37; 42; 46; 62; 77. Philippians 4: 6,7. Isaiah 26: 3, 4; 40: 28-31.
Verses quoted are from the KJV. Minor editing- J.B.W. This article is chapter 6 of A Mind at Ease by M.L. Ashton (Overcomer Literature Trust, 1961).