I wrote last about a place of rest, not just physical rest, but deeper, soul rest. I believe that this is what God invites us to, but that for many it seems to be a lovely idea that we read about but struggle to experience. In Hebrews we read
It’s a rest from our works. Sounds good doesn’t it. The trick comes in the next verse where it says, “make every effort to enter that rest”. That doesn’t sound like rest does it…make every effort to rest from your works seems like a paradox. While it seems difficult to comprehend I am learning that when something seems like a paradox it can actually be a good sign that God is at work trying to help me learn something.
North American Evangelical Christianity hasn’t really stressed the idea of rest. We are all about reaching the lost, building the Kingdom, standing for truth. The idea of resting from work seems passive and we want an active and vibrant faith. That’s been the drumbeat of my life for many years. But I, like many others I am sure, have come to a point where I realized I can never do enough. Jesus said things like “Come to me all you are weary and I will give you rest.” and “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”, but most of the time I felt exhausted trying to do what I thought God wanted me to do. Somewhere in there I must have missed the point. Then I came across this quote:
I began to realize through my own experience, my reading of Scripture, and some kind guidance from mentors that while most of us feel the heart the spiritual life is about doing things for God, the reality is that foundation of the spiritual life is all about receiving what God has to offer. Often my compulsion to do things for God was more about my feeding my own ego and feeling good about my efforts. It also meant that as long as I was holding on to what I did for God, I didn’t have room to accept what God wanted to give me. Then the light came on. I started to see a pattern in my own life, and the lives of people all throughout the Bible. My doing was something that I had to let go to make space for what God wanted to do. It was a way of helping my ego to die, making space for and receiving the grace (and rest) of God. I began to see this pattern all over. One of the first examples where this becomes clear to me was the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. (Lk 24:13-35) They had thought that Jesus was the one who was going to “redeem Israel”. As lovely as that hope was, it was taking up mental real estate and limiting their understanding of what Jesus came to do. When they lost that hope it made space for them to receive the true hope, what Jesus had really come to do.
This letting go and making space is often a painful and difficult process. We sometimes need something drastic to loosen our clinched hands on what we think God needs to do or what we need to do for Him. But as we let go we are reminded that God doesn’t need us to work for him. (Acts 17:24-25) This letting go (or stripping away) leads to rest and freedom. We begin to realize that our spiritual life is all dependent on God. Far more than doing for Him, we respond to Him. What I am seeing in my own life that sinking into this pattern actually still produces works for God, but they come from a different place. It’s a place of rest, where I am only responding to God and not trying to help Him be successful. That’s a funny thought, that I could help God be successful. He seems to have handled Himself okay without me before I showed up.
What is it that you feel God is stripping away from you? Are you willing to open your hands and let it go so that there is space to receive whatever He wants to give you in its place? Can you open your mind to the possibility that this pain and difficulty you are experiencing could actually be a gift from God, a way to free up the mental real estate needed to grasp “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God“(Eph 3:18-19)? I am learning that there is freedom and rest there, but it’s sometimes scary to let go.