Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
….Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Life hits us hard with all kinds of challenges, questions, twists and turns, things imagined and unimagined. It’s hard to keep one’s bearings well, hard to relax and more or less take things in stride. At least for many of us.
I find actual physical sleep a great blessing myself. Relief from the wear and tear of the day, and just from all the difficulties faced. Underrated throughout my life. In the past I often and routinely did not get enough sleep and tanked up on coffee. It is better to get the sleep one needs and appreciate such as a blessing from God.
To translate that rest into our waking hours would be a blessing. Our rest is to be in God. God can and sometimes does give us a strong sense of that rest. But just like having to discipline ourselves to get the physical sleep, going to bed when we should, somehow we need to manage our lives in such a way that God can help us during our awakened hours to find our rest in him, to live more in that rest.
We are so restless both physically and spiritually. As if all depends on us. When actually all true blessing and blessedness depends on God. As Augustine put it, “Our souls are restless until they find rest in God.” Not hiding our face in the sand, but finding God and the rest that comes from “God with us.” In and through Jesus.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
There is no question that the world is either restless or in a rest that isn’t necessarily good or not good at all. The Bible speaks of this time and again, Ecclesiastes being one book starkly depicting it. We seem hardwired against entering into the one rest that brings the true flourishing which we may have once had an inkling of and longing for. We can take care of it ourselves, whatever we’re running after and restless for until we collapse before we go for it some more.
But Jesus invites us into a rest with him, away from the clamor and emptiness of the world’s headlong rush. Yet while apart from that very world, present in it. While there are regular times alone with God, and periodic get aways, this rest is largely lived in the midst and mess of every day normal life. That is what Jesus modeled for us as we see in the gospel accounts, and what the church is called to as we’re told in the rest of the New Testament.
The difference is that we are in and about the Lord’s work, in the way of the Lord no less. But one can well say prior to that in fellowship, indeed close communion with him. I have experienced that at times, though often my experience has been hard, dark and difficult. Which makes me long all the more to learn to enter, remain and live in this yoke of rest with our gentle, humble, living and loving Lord.
Have you ever noticed that when life slows down or comes to a screeching halt you may be reticent to do anything much at all? Perhaps at long last God has one’s full (enough) attention. That and it may well be that what you’re to be about is right under your nose, right in front of you. Perhaps other things have dried up and withered and are no more. So then reticence can be a good thing.
The danger is in throwing in the towel as in simply giving up. So that one might simply go through the motions with little or no heart or might even withdraw completely. There is always the danger also of coming up with one’s own idea and going that route. I can’t help but think of how Israel after rejecting God’s word of promise because of their disobedient unbelief, took it upon themselves to enter the land of promise. They did so even after clear warning that the Lord would not be with them, and were beaten back, forced to abandon that plan altogether.
It is better to do seemingly next to nothing with God, then to do a ton of things on our own with God hardly being in the picture. We often seem to think that more activity is better when we ought to think that it’s more about the right kind of activity. We may end up being busy enough in the latter, but with the hope that God is much more in it. Much better to do less with God in it than more largely by ourselves.
In the end what counts is the work of the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit. We want to be a part of that in and through Jesus to the very end.
Sometimes, maybe even for a good while we become restless. It may end up being a matter of needing to learn a new rest in God. Or perhaps the Lord is seeking to move us in a new direction.
I think we do well to look first to a deeper rest in God. Wherever we are in life, we can surely grow in that. But we also need to remain open to how the Lord might be leading us even by nudging us along the way.
This will require faith, though we could say this restlessness can facilitate and help us grow in faith as well.
The last thing we want to be caught up in is fear. Sometimes we need to be pushed through circumstances or just plain restlessness so that we can grow in faith, maybe even in an entirely new way. Perhaps with a new work. And surely with a new sense of rest in God.
And so we need to remain open. As we continue to live in the victory of God in and through our Lord Jesus Christ.