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  • Writer's pictureAJ Spatz

Resting in Christ: The Problem with Self-Validating Impulses

Many of us struggle with weariness, not merely because of our busy schedules but due to the way we approach our responsibilities. This is not just physical weariness but a deep weariness in our very souls. We often fall into the trap of self-validating impulses, where we constantly strive to prove our worth through our actions. This need for validation infiltrates every aspect of our lives, turning even the most positive experiences into burdens. Whether it’s in our marriages, parenting, or careers, we impose heavy burdens on ourselves in an effort to say, “I did it.” This relentless pursuit of self-validation leaves us feeling exhausted and unfulfilled, as we never reach a point where we feel we have truly “arrived.”

 

Matthew 11:28–30 (ESV): “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

 

Understanding Self-Validating Impulses

Our weariness often stems from the intrinsic brokenness in our souls, a wound that dates back to the Garden of Eden. When humanity chose to go its own way instead of following God’s path, we ushered ourselves out of His grace. This separation from God left an intrinsic wound in our souls, reflecting the brokenness we all experience. Ever since, we have been trying to remedy this through self-validating impulses, constantly striving to prove our worth through our actions.

 

For instance, in marriage, we might feel the need to be the perfect spouse to prove we are worthy of love. At work, we may overextend ourselves to demonstrate our competence and value. In parenting, we might push ourselves to be the perfect parent, believing that our children’s successes or failures reflect our worth. This self-justifying behavior leads to exhaustion because it is driven by a desire for validation. We constantly strive to show that our lives matter, but this endless pursuit of self-validation prevents us from finding true rest.

 

Again, we often impose burdens on ourselves, sometimes without even an awareness of this, seeking to use our efforts to declare to ourselves, others, and even God, “I did it.” However, these efforts never bring lasting satisfaction. We never reach a point where we feel we have truly “arrived,” leading to resentment towards the very things meant to bring us joy. This cycle of self-validation and self-justification and weariness reveals itself in various areas of our lives, causing us to become heavy-laden and weary.

 

 

The Biblical Remedy: Coming to Jesus

Matthew 11:25–27 (ESV): “At that time Jesus declared, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’”

 

The solution to our weariness lies in coming to Jesus. Jesus offers a unique ministry that comes from God, not from human efforts. Our self-validating impulses fail us because they are rooted in our brokenness. We fail as parents, spouses, and employees, leading to a constant state of unrest. In contrast, Jesus’s ministry is not broken by sin; it comes from Heaven and is entrusted to Him by the Father.

 

Jesus has the authority to give rest because everything has been handed over to Him. His miracles, which provided healing and rest, demonstrate His goodness and grace. He performed these miracles not for self-elevation but to reveal His divine nature and love. Jesus invites us into a relationship with Him, offering rest through His justification of our lives.

 

 

Jesus’s Ministry of Giving

Jesus’s entire ministry is centered around giving, and He has been given authority by God to provide rest. This is demonstrated through His numerous miracles, where He healed the sick, restored sight to the blind, and even raised the dead. These miracles were often followed by requests to keep them quiet, not because they were insignificant, but because Jesus’s ultimate mission was to go to the cross and provide a way for our ultimate rest and salvation.

 

His authority from God, as stated in Matthew 11:25-27, reassures us that He can truly give us the rest we need. Jesus’s rest is an extension of His love and grace, visible throughout His life and ministry. He has been entrusted with everything by the Father, and His ministry is one of giving—offering us healing, forgiveness, and rest. He has the authority and the desire to give us rest.

 

 

Understanding Justification and Acceptance

Jesus’s invitation to “Come to me” is an offer to enter a rest-giving relationship with Him. By coming to Jesus, we find justification before God. Jesus’s death on the cross accomplishes our acceptance before God, fundamentally changing our lives. He died not only for the bad things we have done but also for our self-justifying impulses. His blood is sufficient for all our sins, allowing us to be fully accepted by God.

 

As Christians, we are called to parent, work, and love our spouses, not as a means of gaining acceptance before God, but out of gratitude for the acceptance we already have. The Gospel tells us that we are fully accepted now, which simplifies our motivations. Our actions should stem from a place of thankfulness, responding to God’s love rather than seeking validation.

 

 

Christ’s Commands as Expressions of His Love

The commands of Jesus are not burdensome rules meant to restrict us but are profound expressions of His love for us. This aligns perfectly with His invitation to take His yoke upon us, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light. By taking part in His rest, we adopt a heart posture of obedience, understanding that His commands are designed for our ultimate good and flourishing.

 

Jesus, in His ministry, continually demonstrated that His instructions and teachings were rooted in love. He called His followers to a higher standard of living, not to burden them, but to guide them towards a life of true peace and fulfillment. For instance, when Jesus tells us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), He is teaching us to live in a way that breaks the cycle of hatred and promotes peace. When He commands us to forgive those who wrong us (Matthew 6:14-15), He is offering us a path to healing and freedom from the bondage of bitterness. When He instructs us to live humbly (Matthew 23:12), He is guiding us away from the destructive pride that isolates us from God and others. Jesus tells us not to lust (Matthew 5:28). Is Jesus merely trying to be a killjoy by restricting our desires? Surely not! He is expressing His love for us. By instructing us to avoid lust, He is protecting our hearts and minds from the damage that lust causes, promoting holiness and integrity in our relationships.

 

John 15:10-11 (ESV): “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

 

In this passage, Jesus explicitly connects obedience to His commands with abiding in His love. He assures us that by following His teachings, we remain in a loving relationship with Him, which brings us joy. This joy is a direct result of living in accordance with His will, which is always aimed at our best interests.

 

When we understand that Jesus’s commands are expressions of His love, our perspective on obedience changes. We no longer see His commands as restrictive or burdensome but as pathways to experiencing His love more fully. Each command is an invitation to trust in His wisdom and to live in a manner that brings true rest and satisfaction to our souls.


Imagine, for a moment, little children playing on a busy street. Their parents would assuredly prompt them to leave the busy street and stop playing there. The purpose of the command is not one of punishment, though the unaware children may perhaps feel some disappointment upon hearing it. This command is with the awareness of the danger the children are unknowingly facing; this is the love of the parents on display through their command.

 

Obedience to Christ is inherently tied to our participation in His rest. As we embrace His rest, we find that our hearts are inclined to follow His commands out of love and gratitude rather than obligation. This harmonious relationship between rest and obedience reflects the deep, transformative work of the Gospel in our lives, where we are continuously shaped and molded by His love and grace.

 

 

The Trap of Self-Justifying Behaviors for Christians

Even though the truth of the Gospel remains constant, many Christians still experience weariness. This weariness occurs because our awareness and mindfulness of the Gospel can change over time. Life’s busyness causes us to lose focus on the rest that Jesus provides through His justification. When we stop rehearsing the truth that we are fully accepted by God through Christ, self-justifying voices start to take over.

 

The objective fact of our relationship with Jesus never changes, but our perception of it can quickly shift. To combat this, we must regularly remind ourselves of the Gospel. Jesus’s invitation to “Come to me” is a call to continually savor our relationship with Him. We need to learn to savor Jesus, enjoying our relationship with Him like savoring the best meal we have ever had, never, ever wanting it to end and continually craving it.

 

 

The Overflowing Rest in Christ

Imagine standing before Yosemite Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in North America, cascading 2,425 feet down in three separate tiers. At its peak in late spring, 2,400 gallons of water per second flow over the upper fall, a truly staggering amount. To put it in perspective, that’s enough water to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in just over 40 seconds…nonstop, over and over again every minute of every hour of every day.

 

This immense, continuous flow of water symbolizes the overabundance of rest and grace that Jesus offers. Despite the waterfall’s constant flow, our awareness of it can wane as we move away, losing sight of its power and beauty. Similarly, the rest that Jesus provides is always available, but we often drift away from it, becoming preoccupied with our own efforts and self-justifying behaviors. As Christians, we lose focus of the rest that Jesus gives by the justification that he offers from the cross. This happens in most believers because life gets busy. Things start to slip. You stop rehearsing on a regular basis that you are fully accepted by God through Christ. When you stop rehearsing that truth, the self-justifying voices start to take over, subtly and slowly, in your life again. One step at a time, your thinking moves further away from the cross and the Gospel, and you become, again, heavy-laden.  

 

The Israelites experienced a similar situation in the wilderness when they needed water. God provided for them by bringing water from a rock on multiple occasions. When they were thirsty, God met their needs, demonstrating His provision and care. This rock is a symbol of Christ, our spiritual Rock, who offers living water that quenches our deepest thirst.

 

John 4:13-14 (ESV): “Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’”

 

Just as the Israelites had to return to the rock for water, we must continually come back to Jesus to receive the living water He offers. This living water not only quenches our spiritual thirst but also provides the deep rest for our souls that we desperately need. By coming to Jesus again and again, we can experience His rest and refreshment continually, much like standing before the unceasing flow of Yosemite Falls and being awed by its power and beauty.

 

This image underscores the importance of remaining connected to Jesus and continuing to come to Him, our source of rest and living water. Despite the distractions and challenges of life, we are invited to return to Him repeatedly, drawing from His endless supply of grace and rest in the validation He has given us rather than our own self-validating impulses.

 

 

Practical Steps to Reclaim Rest in Christ

1.  Daily Rehearsal of the Gospel: Regularly remind yourself that you are fully accepted by God through Christ. Rehearse the truth of the Gospel, acknowledging that Jesus’s death and resurrection have secured your justification and acceptance.

2.  Mindful Bible Reading: Approach your Bible reading with the understanding that every command is an expression of Jesus’s love for you. Reflect on how each command demonstrates God’s care and desire for your well-being.

3.  Gratitude in Action: Let your actions be motivated by gratitude for God’s acceptance. Whether parenting, working, or loving your spouse, do so out of thankfulness for what Christ has done, not to prove your worth.

4.  Prayer and Communion with God: Cultivate a habit of prayer and communion with God. Seek to deepen your relationship with Him, savoring His presence and guidance in your life.

5.  Obedience as Rest-Giving: Recognize that obedience to God’s commands is meant to bring rest. Understand that God’s commands are expressions of His love, designed for your good. Embrace obedience as a path to experiencing the rest that Jesus offers.

6.  Avoiding Complacency: Guard against complacency in your relationship with Jesus. Pray for a softened heart, receptive to the truths of the Gospel. Continually seek to apply these truths to your life, keeping your focus on Christ.

 

 

Reflection

   1.  In what areas of your life do you feel the need to prove your worth?

   2.  How have self-validating impulses affected your relationships and responsibilities?

   3.  What does it mean to you to find rest in Jesus?

   4.  How can you remind yourself daily of your acceptance by God through Christ?

   5.  What practical steps can you take to savor your relationship with Jesus?

   6.  How does understanding Jesus’s commands as expressions of His love change your perspective on obedience?

   7.  What areas of your life have become burdensome due to self-justification?

   8.  How can you cultivate a habit of gratitude in your daily actions?

   9.  How can you incorporate regular times of reflection on the Gospel into your routine?

10.  What specific commands of Jesus can you view as expressions of His love for you, and how can this perspective change your approach to obedience?

 

 

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