What did I miss on my quest for rest?
I thought rest was something I needed to do or not do. It was something I needed to accomplish, achieve, and succeed at. If I was not, then there was something more that I needed to do.
The truth is that was the wrong path all along.
Doing that is akin to trying to be good enough for God by doing the right things, more of the right things, and even more of the right things in order to hope it was enough to achieve His righteousness.
I know that is utter foolishness. I could never be right enough or good enough to get to that goal. I didn’t need to attempt to do that before I could ask Him for help or forgiveness any more than the blood of bulls could accomplish that for the children of Israel.
I could only come into His presence through the gift of grace. I needed to receive it. I could not achieve it.
When I chose to accept the gift, only then was I clothed in righteousness (HIS) that allowed me to come into His presence, abide with Him, and grow a deeply intimate relationship with Him.
What I missed on my quest for rest is that rest is also a gift! It is not something I can do for myself.
In The Radical Pursuit of Rest, John Koessler points out:
“Jesus is the subject of the verb in Matthew 11:28 and we are the object. What Jesus says might be translated something like “I will rest you” or “I will refresh you.” This rest is as relational as it is experiential. We come to Christ and he refreshes us. We do not come to Christ, receive our rest and then go on our way. By offering us rest, Christ offers himself.”
Wow! What a surprise!
That brings richer understanding of the words in Hebrews 3 when the writer speaks of those who were unable to enter into rest because of “unbelief”. Trusting Him seems to equal resting in Him. Failing to rest in Him means not trusting or believing in Him, which equals disobedience.
Hebrews posits rest as a location, a destination. Once I receive it (the gift), then I can learn to practice it as a discipline even as I do with grace as Jerry Bridges talks about in his wonderful book, The Discipline of Grace.
I can find rest then by receiving it as a gift from Jesus even as I receive Him through grace. Experiencing it, knowing what it is like, allows me to begin to practice it no matter what kind of day or season I am walking through.
Growing in grace was gradual, but we have the promise that God through Jesus will accomplish the work as Paul writes in Philippians 1:6:
“And I am sure of this, that he who began “a good work in you” will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
I believe the corollary about rest fits here as well. Growing in rest is a gradual thing, practicing it helps us to better maintain it. It means being in Him.
When I practice being in Him, I experience energy that points to doing Christian action. That is when His yoke feels easy and His burden feels light. Practicing rest does not mean I do nothing for Him, but it does mean I am doing His leading for me.
But what about all the stress, the things I need to do, the cares of this life?
Looking at it from that perspective, I am reminded that none of those things negate grace. I think there is also a parallel that none of those things negate rest because if I am truly abiding in Him, then I trust Him for all of my provision in every area.
I am not relying on myself to accomplish all of it. I am also tuning in to His voice for His leading, which invariably results in my discovery of the provision He has for me.
Have I achieved this as yet? No. I am still practicing, but I am learning to practice this more accurately. What I mean is this. If I practice a piece of music habitually not following the exact notes or time signature, I will never play the music as it was meant to be played. If I am not practicing with the right fingering it will be more difficult to play the music as well.
I have had a hint of this in my relationship with Him for a long time. I know that on days I felt I was too late, too rushed, or too busy to take time to simply be with Him at the beginning of my day and rush off without that time, I never get the things done that need to be accomplished that day. If, however, I hold distraction at bay and quiet myself for a few minutes to enter into Him, those minutes somehow get multiplied and I get more done that day than I had hoped to accomplish.
If I am practicing rest as the gift only He can give, I will grow to experience it more as He intends no matter what my daily circumstances may be.