In times of trouble and stress, the need for rest becomes all-the-more apparent. How rare it is for us today to make a space in the busyness of life that is reserved for breathing in the presence of God and breathing out His wisdom, love and will. Spiritual exhaustion seeps into every other aspect of life, including our emotions, our relationships, our self-image, our reliance upon God and the things we ultimately do and say (or don’t do and say, even when we should).
All of life seems to resist such rest. Tragedy surrounds us on all sides as if we were being besieged by forces of destruction, whether disease, horrible violence in churches and schools, natural disasters, opiate addiction and overdose deaths, orphans and broken families and international dilemmas that blare constantly through our airwaves and digital spaces.
The world wonders, “Rest? How can you speak of rest?” And it hurries on its way through the trackless jungles of worry and doubt, trying to fix with the bandages and duct tape of wishful thinking and government policy what can only be cured by the power of God in the changing of hearts.
So before you and I get carried away by the monstrous vultures of fear and hate, remember that there is healing and hope even in a time of tears. Remember that there is life and light beyond the veil of shadow of doubt that afflicts us in the swirling mists of hateful and fearful messages that rampage about us today. Take heart that even death cannot conquer the child of God for even when our bodies are broken or are overcome with weakness at last, our hope is not in this life alone, but in the life to come.
“On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God” (Psalm 62:7 ESV).
There is no evil act that trumps the sovereign grace of God at work in our world. Evil will destroy and disturb, it will slander and obscure, but it cannot quench the hope that God’s children find in the life and ministry of our risen Savior.
“Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:7 ESV).
The alternatives to trusting in Him are, of course, to trust someone else who promises “the goods” (but cannot deliver anything beyond this life), to trust ourselves (until we come tragically to the end of our wisdom and strength and find that we cannot do or be all that we must do or be), or to trust no one at all and wither into bitterness and despair as we are swallowed alive by the very evil that we hate.
“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12-13 ESV).
Happily, it is not necessary for us to come to such a tragic conclusion. It is our blessing, as we turn from sin and turn to Jesus Christ, to enter into a rest that has been reserved for us.
“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-29 ESV).
Such rest is a place of sweet release as we surrender our compulsion to “control” our lives and the lives of others (as if we really could), and learn how to, day-by-day, hear His voice from His word and how to, moment-by-moment, step with Him through the crazy labyrinth of life finding that He is indeed the only Guide truly worth trusting and the only Path that leads to life. Why would we want to live anywhere but in
the place of growing in Him, knowing Him, and experiencing His love and power at work in our lives? And why on earth would we ever wander from it?
“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God…. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall…” (Hebrews 4:9, 11a ESV).
If you have found yourself led astray by the devious distractions of hectic schedules, demanding expectations, or numerous disappointments, learn the simple, yet sweet, practice of daily seeking God through prayer, listening to God by reading His Word, drinking from the well of worship from among His people, and fellowshipping with Him in the sacrament of service. These are not given to us that we just have more things to do (and more things to feel guilty about if we don’t do them), but that we might be refreshed and renewed and strengthened to not only survive, but conquer.
“For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15a ESV).
Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 22 years. He is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.