The answer is Yes! God does help Christians with their exams – but not the way you might think. God offers something even better (and that we need even more) than higher grades. What He offers is rest. Come to me, all you who are weary and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gently and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. [Matthew 11:28-30]
Why we need rest
Does ‘weary and burdened’ sound like anyone you know right now?
Here are three ‘burdens’ that we need rest from:
Some people overwork. They work unhealthily hard in a desperate attempt to become 1st class people or A grade students. The problem is you never really know whether you’re doing enough until results day. So for just about the whole year I’m never able to relax. Even if results day goes as I hoped, I’ve still got to prove it all over again next year…
Other people underwork. It’s a kind of defence mechanism. If I don’t really try, I can’t really fail. I can always tell myself that I could have succeeded if I’d really tried.
Many people have the worst of both worlds; they constantly swerve between overwork and underwork. Long periods of soul-destroying procrastination are punctuated by occasional manic bursts of caffeine fuelled activity. Students may joke about those all-nighters with bravado but, rest assured, they are quietly groaning on the inside.
All three approaches lead to a person being, what Jesus calls, ‘weary and burdened’.
What if there was a way to neither destructively overwork nor destructively underwork? Can Jesus make us people who can i) work hard ii) play hard and iii) never confuse the two!
How we get it
Real rest is actually much harder than most people think. It’s not as easy as simply taking time off. We all know the person who leaves the office/desk physically at the end of the day but cannot leave their work behind mentally or psychologically. They cannot switch off; there is always that low-level creeping dread in the back of the mind.
Rest is a rather like sleep. Most people say they need about 7-8 hours sleep out of every 24. But what would happen if instead of taking that all in one or two stretches, you took eight one hour naps equally spaced throughout the day?
You may be getting enough sleep but you would certainly not be getting enough deep sleep.
It’s the same thing with rest. We need deep rest and that is much harder to get than we think. It’s much harder than just putting my pen down or switching the laptop off. It’s much harder than just getting better at planning and time management.
In fact, there’s only one way to get deep rest. Jesus says ‘Come to me’.
He is the only one who is both strong enough to trust and loving enough to trust ourselves to completely. We may have family or friends who love us deeply but they are not able to guarantee us good health or good grades or a good career. On the other hand, the people who do have more power and influence over those things probably (unless you are very lucky indeed) don’t love us as deeply. Only in the arms of the Lord Jesus can our souls fall into deep rest.
The difference it makes
Jesus’ description of deep rest is wonderful, ‘my yoke is easy and my burden is light’. It doesn’t mean that we stop working or that God magics our results for us or anything like that. It does mean not having to rely on results day to plug the hole in our self-worth.
When we stop studying to prove ourselves, we can start studying for better and healthier reasons. We can actually enjoy learning! We get to ‘think God’s thoughts after Him’, to develop the minds and abilities He has given us in preparation to serve others and strengthen society.