Sunday, January 11, 2009

Rest

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

                        Matthew 11.28 

Nothing but Fumes

Mild nostalgia for the souped-up preachers I loved as kid occasionally prompts me to watch televangelists. Some are very good; others aren’t. The common appeal these days seems to be pep. (Power was big when I was young.) It’s sometimes hard to locate scriptural nuggets buried in the motivational malarkey. According to a lot of these ministers, living by faith is a joyride. Grab the wheel, kick into high gear, and drive like the dickens. Don’t let anything or anyone slow you down—not doubt, not doubters, not temptation, and most certainly not the Tempter. Should any of these speed bumps arise, TV preachers recommend a lot of talking. “Tell yourself this,” or “Tell the Devil that.” Apparently, these bromides are all you need to leave the conflict behind in a cloud of dust.

They get me tired, these coaches for Christ—principally because they skim over a very real aspect of following Jesus. We get tired. Life naturally piles up demands on our time, energy, and attention. Couple that with the believer’s unnatural, faith-driven approach to life’s stresses and moving forward at all is miraculous. Thankfully, we’re not stuck for life with all of the strains and burdens taxing us. Bumpy patches and steep inclines give way to stretches of smoother road where we gain momentum. But let’s be truthful. When everything comes at us at once and all kinds of problems block our way, we’ve got nothing but fumes to keep us going. We’re weary and carrying added weight. Thinking we can talk ourselves back up to speed is foolish. We need rest.

Tough Going

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. In our case, though, when the going gets tough, we go to Jesus, per His instructions. We know we’re running low on confidence and commitment. Barreling ahead on our own strength isn’t an advisable risk since He’s already promised to restore us. So how do we do that? What does resting in Christ involve?

First, we pull aside for time alone with Him. This requires shuffling priorities, especially if we’re already pressed for time. So often prayer, meditation, and Scripture are the first things we drop when problems and responsibilities overcrowd our days. They should be the last. Lacking time to spend in Christ’s presence indicates we need more time than usual with Him. We let something else wait; it’s not as urgent as finding rest. Whispering prayers while we run errands or meditating on the Word as we wait to see the doctor are terrific ways to redeem lost time. But we’re not resting. It’s vital we reach Christ at a time and place conducive to listening and learning. They’re the keys to rest.

No Problems Allowed

Second, before entering our rest period, we observe the “No Problems Allowed” sign on the door. Burdens and worries depleted us to begin with. Going over them when should be resting defeats the purpose. Since Jesus knows and understands our struggles, there’s nothing to tell. Yes, He’s concerned about our situation. 1 Peter 5.7 encourages us to “cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Rest begins with release—turning our troubles over to Christ—yet we take care of that prior to seeking rest. Notice Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” This is about us, not the issues confronting us. He goes on to say when we come to Him for rest, He replaces our burdens with a lighter load. “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.” (Matthew 11.29)

“Be still, and know that I am God,” Psalm 46.10 says. “Learn from Me,” Jesus says. Rest won’t come by ruminating over our worries. Rest is a listening proposition. Christ does the talking. We become still and as He speaks, we know we’re hearing God’s voice. The gentleness of His words and the simplicity of His counsel revive our spirits and renew our resolve. “Wait on the LORD; be of good courage and He shall strengthen your heart,” David writes in Psalm 27.14. Waiting is resting. Courage is confidence. Strength will come. It takes time, and the time it takes is the time we make.

Rest comes by taking time to listen.

(Tomorrow: Wrestling)

 

6 comments:

Maithri said...

Dear Brother Tim,

This is Beautiful.

I love what you say about the need to listen... To become still...

Pascal said "All of mans troubles stem from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone."

And the more i live... the more i think this is true..

Rest involves quietude. Listening to the world and to God.

So often our prayer is one way... a shopping list....

Thanks for reminding us that as Herman Melville said

"Gods only voice is silence."

Deep stillness and the flame of hope to you my brother and friend,

Maithri

Tim said...

Maithri, my dear friend, it's always a great joy to hear from you--and your comments always bless me.

It's so true, the longer we live, the better we grasp the value of stillness. Knowing Jesus knows our needs before we ask frees us from doing all the talking so we can listen. Once we present our needs, we're able to leave the shopping list behind and rest peacefully.

As I get older, the wisdom of Paul's advice to the Ephesians rings truer. Don't be anxious about anything, he says. Present your requests with thanksgiving. "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Pascal, Melville, and Paul lead us to the same conclusion. We need to rest just so we can reap the rewards of solitude and silence rest requires.

Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness. May God enfold you in His peace and rest.

Your brother in Christ's love,
Tim

johnmichael said...

This is such a good reminder that we do need to rest, something that many of us don't allow ourselves.

A lot of times, prayer, although comforting for me can be a time of restlessness because I drudge up the stresses from the day, to talk to our Lord about those things which have burdened me. You are right, He already knows those things. Somehow though, my prayers always involve those things which have caused me to be tired in the first place.

I still need to start exercising having a conversation with Him that doesn't involve "whining" about the things which stress me out. Just simple conversation, acknowledging that I'm trying to build a relationship.

Tim said...

You make an excellent point, John.

Prayer is one of, if not the most inadequately tapped resources in Christian life. Much of this is due to how prayer is traditionally taught, which emphasizes its effectiveness in problem solving over its importance as conversation--Maithri's "shopping list" and your "stress management" approach.

I'd say 99.9% of us (hopefully an exaggeration) hardly ever exercise prayer's many other attributes--conversation, observation, shared stillness with God, etc.

One of the coolest things about prayer is that it can never be done wrong. It only can be done better or worse. It IS a critical aspect of building a relationship with God. But we can try all sorts of new prayer ideas and He loves us all the more for trying.

Thanks for chiming in, John. I'm so thankful you're here and always so smart and honest about following Christ. I'm so grateful that God led you our direction!

Blessings of peace and prayer to you.
Tim

FranIAm said...

Be still and know that I am God is what I try to say and do and be when I am really in poor shape.

Easy to say and hard to live.

This is a wonderful post and I am grateful to have read it.

Tim said...

"Easy to say and hard to live."

You got that right, Fran. For me, it's 50-50. When I'm tired but my faith is strong, knowing He's God makes it tough for me to sit still. I want something to happen. I can wait in stillness when I'm low on faith, though.

It's a conundrum. Yet, like all the mysteries of faith, the internal logic is perfect.

Faith and fatigue are bad bedfellows.When we're tired but our faith is strong, we're apt to misjudge situations and invest belief in more convenient, quick fixes rather than God's long-term plan for our lives. It's time to be still.

On the other hand, when we haven't the faith to push ahead, we don't know what to say, so it's as if we become still by default. Our most loving and wise God honors our desire to believe and uses these moments of doubt to speak comfort and assurance to us. While we sit in silence, His Spirit prays for us.

It's a beautiful thing.

I write this coming off a day of total stillness. Walt and I woke up this morning to realize it's been weeks since we had a day to ourselves--either free of plans or making plans. We turned everything off: phone, TV, computers, etc., and rested. I don't think 100 words passed between us all day. And now, having "wasted" (hardly!) a day on naps and reading--drifting, actually--I feel like I've been on a two-week vacation.

I realize a day like this is a luxury not everyone can afford. There are kids to feed and care for, parents to see about, walks to shovel, etc. But I mention this because I truly believe physical rest is every bit as essential as spiritual rest. When opportunities to "drift" come along--if only for a half-hour or so--we should seize them, gratefully without guilt.

A lot of what we think is so urgent and necessary in the moment turns out to be minor in the long term. Sometimes a sink full of dirty dishes (like the ones waiting in our kitchen right now) can be a lovely thing!

Fran, dearest, you know I love you and always appreciate the insights you bring to our discussions.

Be blessed always, my lovely sister, and don't forget to rest!

Tim