‘Finding Refreshment for Your Souls’
“Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, . . . and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.”—MATTHEW 11:28-30.
1, 2. What has been the situation of the human family for centuries, and how does this contrast with what God originally purposed?
“WE KNOW that all creation keeps on groaning together and being in pain together until now.” That is what a man wrote to friends in Rome centuries ago. (Romans 8:22) In the years since then, the groaning and pain of the human family as a whole have only increased. Prejudice, poverty, crime, and hunger have taken a tragic toll everywhere. The unjust economic system forces millions out of jobs and even out of their homes, and satanic influences undermine efforts to bring up children in the way they should go.
2 But perhaps the greatest tragedy occurs when sickness, disease, or old age saps people of their strength and robs them of their dignity as they deteriorate to mere shells of their former selves. The terrible pain and suffering, often lasting for weeks, months, and at times even years, make hearts ache and cause rivers of tears to flow. What a sad commentary on life! Concerning the plight of man, a wise king of long ago said: “All his days his occupation means pains and vexation.” (Ecclesiastes 2:23; 4:1) Life today surely is not what God originally purposed it to be!—Genesis 2:8, 9.
3. With what potential did God create man, and how is it presently being realized to a limited extent?
3 Jehovah God created man perfect, with the potential of really enjoying life. (Deuteronomy 32:4, 5) Just think of the delight of tasting a fine meal, breathing enjoyably clean air, or viewing a gorgeous sunset! “I have seen the occupation that God has given to the sons of mankind in which to be occupied,” observed the same wise king of long ago. “Everything he has made pretty in its time. . . . I have come to know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good during one’s life; and also that every man should eat and indeed drink and see good for all his hard work. It is the gift of God.”—Ecclesiastes 3:10-13.
4. (a) As demonstrated by Jesus’ experiences, what is the sad situation of so many? (b) What heartwarming invitation did Jesus extend, and what questions does this raise?
4 Yet, how few are able to enjoy the good things God purposed for us! Jesus Christ was aware of the wretched, pathetic condition of mankind. “Great crowds approached him,” the Bible says, “having along with them people that were lame, maimed, blind, dumb, and many otherwise, and they fairly threw them at his feet.” How Jesus pitied such unfortunate individuals! (Matthew 9:36; 15:30) On one occasion, he extended the heartwarming invitation: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28, 29) Surely, these are hope-inspiring words! But what refreshment was Jesus talking about? And how can we find it?
The Truth That Refreshes
5. How did Jesus point the way to true freedom and refreshment for our souls?
5 When Jesus attended the Festival of Tabernacles about six months before his death, he pointed to the way to become free and thus receive true refreshment. Addressing those who had put faith in him, he said: “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31, 32) What truth was Jesus talking about? From what will it free us? In what way were his listeners slaves?
6. (a) What objection did religious opposers raise, and why? (b) In what way are all of us slaves?
6 Religious opposers interrupted Jesus, asserting: “We are Abraham’s offspring and never have we been slaves to anybody. How is it you say, ‘You will become free’?” Those Jewish opposers were proud of their heritage. Even though the nation had often come under foreign domination, the Jews refused to be called slaves. But Jesus showed in what way they were slaves, saying: “Most truly I say to you, Every doer of sin is a slave of sin.” Yes, all his listeners were ‘doers of sin,’ even as are all of us today. This is because all of us have inherited sin from our original parents. But Jesus promised: “If the Son sets you free, you will be actually free.”—John 8:33-36; Romans 5:12.
7. How can true freedom be realized, and what is the truth that sets us free?
7 True freedom can thus be realized only by means of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who gave his perfect human life as a ransom sacrifice. It is this sacrifice that frees us from death-dealing sin and makes it possible for us to enjoy everlasting life in perfect health and happiness in God’s righteous new world. (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10) Therefore, the truth that sets us free is the truth regarding Jesus Christ and his role in the fulfillment of God’s purposes. The Kingdom, with Christ as King, is what will accomplish God’s will for the earth, and Jesus continually bore witness regarding this truth.—John 18:37.
How the Truth Refreshes
8. How might the way the truth provides refreshment be illustrated?
8 The way the truth provides refreshment might be illustrated by a woman who has been told that she has a rapidly spreading form of cancer. The burden of that knowledge crushes her as she considers the painful, potentially devastating consequences. In time, however, she consults another doctor and undergoes further tests. When the results of the tests reveal that either the first diagnosis was in error or she has made a remarkable recovery, you can imagine the wonderful feeling of relief she experiences. How refreshing it is to her soul!
9. How did Jesus provide relief by teaching people the truth?
9 Similarly, when Jesus came to the earth, the people were weighed down by the vain traditional systems of the day. Of the scribes and Pharisees who were responsible, Jesus said: “They bind up heavy loads and put them upon the shoulders of men, but they themselves are not willing to budge them with their finger.” (Matthew 23:4; Mark 7:2-5) What a relief it was when Jesus provided the people with the truth that freed them from such enslaving traditions! (Matthew 15:1-9) It is no different today.
10. What joy-robbing burdens have many carried, and how may a person feel when these are removed as a result of his learning the truth?
10 Perhaps you were one who, because of the heavy burden of false religious teachings, lived in dread of suffering torment in hellfire or in purgatory after death. Or when a loved one died, you may have been crushed when a clergyman told you that God had taken your darling baby because He needed another angel—as if God needed your child more than you did. At times clergymen also tell people who are suffering some illness that this is a curse from God. Is it not truly refreshing to learn the Bible truths that relieve a person of such burdensome religious falsehoods? What feeling of relief this brings!—Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; Ezekiel 18:4; John 9:2, 3.
11. (a) What is one of the greatest burdens, and how can it be removed? (b) What refreshment did Jesus bring sinners when he was on earth?
11 One of the greatest burdens to carry is that of guilt because of the sins we have committed. It is a relief to know that because of the merit of Christ’s ransom sacrifice, these sins can be removed. ‘The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin,’ the Bible assures us. (1 John 1:7) Despite any terrible things we may have done, if we have truly repented and mended our ways, we can enjoy the refreshing relief of a clean conscience and the assurance that God will no longer remember our sins. (Psalm 103:8-14; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Hebrews 10:21, 22) What refreshment Christ brought those burdened with sin, such as harlots and tax collectors like Zacchaeus! Jesus comforted them with Bible truths while he ate with them.—Luke 5:27-32; 7:36-50; 19:1-10.
12. (a) To persons in what distressing situations did Jesus bring refreshment? (b) In the first century, to whom did Jesus demonstrate in a spectacular way that he is “the way and the truth and the life”?
12 Many other people carry the heavy burdens of sickness and disease, severe depression, and the tremendous grief that comes with the death of a loved one. Jesus, however, brought refreshment to all such ones who were “toiling and loaded down.” (Matthew 4:24; 11:28, 29) He cured one woman who had unsuccessfully sought help from physicians for 18 years. Jesus also healed a man who had been sick for 38 years, and another who had been born blind. Can you imagine their relief when Jesus healed them? (Luke 13:10-17; John 5:5-9; 9:1-7) The fact is that all those who came to Jesus in faith came to the source of truth, genuine refreshment, and life. To the widow who received her only son back from death and the parents whose dead 12-year-old daughter was returned alive to them, Jesus indeed proved in a spectacular way that he is “the way and the truth and the life.”—John 14:6; 17:3; Luke 7:11-17; 8:49-56.
13. To whom did Jesus teach us to turn for help, and what happens when we apply his counsel?
13 No doubt there are times when you are confronted with problems that are greater than you can handle personally. Jesus taught us to turn to Jehovah for help, even as he himself did. (Luke 22:41-44; Hebrews 5:7) When we regularly turn to God in prayer, we come to share the feelings of the psalmist who wrote: “Blessed be Jehovah, who daily carries the load for us, the true God of our salvation.” (Psalm 55:22; 68:19) Yes, knowing the truth really does bring refreshment. It draws us closer to Jehovah and helps us to appreciate that with his help it is possible to handle even the most difficult situations in life successfully.
Refreshed by the Kingdom Hope
14. What sustained Jesus in his trials, and what is vital if we are to find refreshment for our souls?
14 To find true refreshment for our souls, we must have a strong hope. It was hope that sustained Jesus. The Bible says: “For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) The joyful hope that sustained Jesus was that of contributing to the sanctification of his Father’s name by keeping integrity, as well as of proving worthy of reigning as King of God’s Kingdom. Maintaining a clear vision of our hope, either as a coruler with Christ in heaven or as one of his subjects living on the Paradise earth, will also sustain us in God’s service. Indeed, that hope is vital to finding refreshment for our souls.—Romans 12:12.
15. What are our life prospects without the Kingdom hope?
15 Consider our life prospects without the Kingdom hope. A typical life span is only 70 or possibly 80 years. And those days go by so fast, as anyone growing older will tell you! Yes, the Bible truthfully says of life: “It must quickly pass by, and away we fly.” (Psalm 90:10) Yet, we want our days to go on. We want to live. There is so much to do and enjoy.
16. To find refreshment for our souls, what do we need to do?
16 How vital, therefore, that we come in faith to “Christ Jesus, our hope”! (1 Timothy 1:1) As he said: “This is the will of my Father, that everyone that beholds the Son and exercises faith in him should have everlasting life.” (John 6:40, 51) Do we believe that? To find refreshment for our souls, we absolutely must. We cannot do without it. Indeed, we must put on “as a helmet the hope of salvation.” (1 Thessalonians 5:8; compare Hebrews 6:19.) That hope must guard our mind, our thinking. Otherwise, we will become so weighed down by burdens and troubles that we will give up and lose out on everlasting life. In order to enjoy refreshment for your soul, therefore, be sure to keep your Kingdom hope strong.
Refreshment From Doing God’s Work
17. (a) To obtain refreshment, what is required, and why is this not too much for us? (b) What does accepting Christ’s yoke involve?
17 But to obtain refreshment, more is required than simply coming to Jesus. He added: “Take my yoke upon you [or, “Get under my yoke with me”] and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.” (Matthew 11:29, 30, New World Translation Reference Bible, footnote) Taking on a yoke signifies work. But notice that Jesus does not ask us to take the yoke upon ourselves and do all the work alone. We are to get under the yoke with him. In this case, to accept the yoke that Christ offers involves making a dedication to God, symbolizing this by water baptism, and then assuming the responsibility of being a disciple of Christ. But how can such a yoke of discipleship bring refreshment?
18. (a) Why does accepting Christ’s yoke bring refreshment? (b) How does the preaching work bring us joy and refreshment?
18 Accepting Christ’s yoke brings refreshment because Jesus is mild-tempered and lowly in heart. Since he is not unreasonable, it is refreshing to work along with him under the same yoke. He takes into consideration our limitations and weaknesses. As he said, “My yoke is kindly.” True, the yoke of discipleship involves work, the same preaching and teaching work that Jesus did and for which he trained his early followers. (Matthew 28:19, 20; Acts 1:8) Yet, what a refreshing work it is to tell others about our loving God, his Son, and the Kingdom! How refreshing it is to tell people how they can live forever in Paradise! And when they respond to the life-giving Kingdom message and join us in serving Jehovah God, how great our joy becomes!—1 Timothy 4:16.
19. Why is the counsel of Moses’ father-in-law noteworthy for congregation elders today?
19 In recent years, millions have come to Jehovah’s organization who need help in accepting Christ’s yoke, and this increases the work load of Kingdom proclaimers and those who shepherd them. For such spiritual shepherds, the counsel that the prophet Moses received from his father-in-law is noteworthy. He gave Moses this advice: “It is not good the way you are doing. You will surely wear out, both you and this people who are with you, because this business is too big a load for you. You are unable to do it by yourself.” So he advised Moses to select other capable men to share the work of shepherding the people. Following this advice proved successful. (Exodus 18:17-27) Today, continual training will produce many capable men, “gifts in men,” who can share in shepherding the flock so that congregation elders do not wear out.—Ephesians 4:8, 16.
20. What do Jesus Christ and his Father require of us?
20 Although Christ exhorted his followers to exert themselves vigorously, neither he nor his Father requires that any of us do more than what is reasonable. Once, when some criticized Mary the sister of Lazarus for her efforts in Jesus’ behalf, he rebuked them, saying: “Let her alone. . . . She did what she could.” (Mark 14:6-8; Luke 13:24) And that is all that is expected of us—to do what we can. Such Christian activity is not a burden but a refreshment. Why? Because it brings true satisfaction now and the sure hope of everlasting benefits in the future.
21. (a) What is Christ’s light load, and what often makes the preaching work difficult? (b) What should be our firm resolve, and with what sure prospect?
21 True, Satan will see to it that we are persecuted, even as our yokefellow, Jesus Christ, was. (John 15:20; 2 Timothy 3:12) But remember that it is not Christ’s light load that is burdensome. Rather, it is the opposition of Satan and his agents that often makes our work so difficult. Christ’s load consists simply of living up to God’s requirements, and these are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3) May we, then, continue to stay under Jesus Christ’s yoke with him, exerting ourselves in the preaching and teaching work, even as he did. By doing so we will, as he promised, ‘find refreshment for our souls.’
How Would You Respond?
□ According to Romans 8:22, what has been the situation of humankind?
□ In what ways does knowing the truth bring refreshment?
□ Why is the Kingdom hope so refreshing?
□ What is Jesus’ yoke, and why is it kindly?
□ Carrying what load will bring us refreshment?