I'm a homebody, an expert relaxer. I have twice, maybe three times as many pajama pants as I do "real" pants. I can rock a lazy day with the best of them, and I love those quiet moments at home with my family. While I excel at "relaxing", I am terrible, awful, very-no-good at "resting". With my lazy bum planted firmly on the couch, my mind and heart are still going about a thousand miles an hour, corralling in all the worries and responsibilities of my life and attempting to solve all the problems right then and there. I have to write things down or I will go over and over them in my mind, afraid I will forget, unable to let the thought go until it's somewhere outside my mind. This worked for me for a while (well, kind of) ... until the problems and worries and responsibilities exceeded the capacity of my poor mind and heart. Then, I had to learn to rest.
In Jeremiah 6, the Lord says, "Stand by the roads and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls." The way of the Lord brings rest for the soul. Jesus famously said, "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)" Jesus promises a rest, a soulful rest, for the weary, for those who have been trying to work their way into the salvation that God offers. Believing on Jesus is an easy, light burden because we rest our concerns and our trials on the One who has already accomplished the work in our stead.
This is so, so much easier said than done. I found myself unable to rest in the midst of my daughter's struggles, anguished over her pain and trials. I would spend hours trying to fall asleep, all the medical words playing through my head over and over like I was studying for some test. When I was awake, I could never focus, constantly trying to remember to do this or that or caught thinking about everything that happened and everything that might happen. Even when the going is smooth, I have a hard time calming my mind; throw me into a difficult situation and I start to drown, flapping and flailing as I go. So how was I supposed to achieve this rest? How could I get myself to calm down and trust in God?
Well, first, I can't. I don't have the power within myself to give myself rest. I have to turn to the Lord. Jesus promises rest for all those to come to Him. Hebrews tells us that "we who have believed" enter God's rest. Jeremiah says that I just have to ask about the good way and then walk in it. But there has to be more to this whole thing, right? How does this mysterious "rest" help me in the midst of my struggles and suffering? What does it have to offer me?
What I needed was a better understanding of "rest". I was looking for a soothing calm for my busy mind. The rest that God promises His people is far bigger and stronger than that. He promises an eternal rest. Hebrews goes on to connect the rest that we enter with God's rest on the seventh day. He had created the world, "And God rested on the seventh day from all his works." God's rest came in connection with his finished creation, the completion of His work. Our rest, found in Jesus (like he says in Matthew) comes from recognizing the finished work of Christ, the completion of His work in securing our redemption.
Deep down, when I'm obsessing about medications or feeding tubes or balanced dinners for my toddler, I'm trying to get everything right. I'm reverting back to my control-freak ways and taking on all the responsibilities, putting the weight on myself. I'm trying to make it all go right so I can stand back, look at my accomplishments, and say, "That's right. I did that." I fall and fail and flounder because I'm just not capable of this. I'm one little person and it's a big world out there; I can't possibly fight all the battles and win. I find rest not by figuring it all out or having all the answers or "seeking" God's path (when really, I'm just looking for the trigger, the little pill to swallow to make me good enough); I find rest when I look to the cross and see the finished work of the Savior. He makes it all right. He fights the battles. He knows the will of the Father, accomplishes that work, and offers me the reward. "So then there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his." I rest from my works because Jesus has already completed them. I don't have to get everything right or earn favor with God or work so hard that I fall apart. Jesus already did.
But how do I know that's good enough? How do I know that's true? How can I be sure there isn't more for me to do? Because "we have a great high priest, who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God... For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)" Jesus completed the work, but He did so knowing my struggles. He was tempted to defy God, go His own way, work in His own power, in all the same ways that I am tempted to do that. But He obeyed God, stayed the course, and sacrificed Himself. God's plan made room for a fumbling, confused, worry-wart like myself to find rest in the One who completed the work I fail so miserably at. I can be confident in my acceptance with God not because I did everything right, checked all the boxes, succeeded in every way. I can be confident because of Jesus and there at His feet, I find the mercy I could never gain on my own. I also find the grace that I so desperately long for in times when all seems lost.
This is not a medicine, take it once and you're fixed. This is one of those things, like I quoted Piper here, that I have to preach to myself every single day. It is all tied in to my desire for control and my inability to let go. But I remind myself that this rest is not mine to earn, but rather mine to receive. It is not just for this day or this season of life or even just for this life; it is for eternity. It is a rest that brings not just the illusion of calm and happy, but a true peace, one that surpasses understanding. It is a rest secured by the Lord for His people out of a love and devotion that are deeper than the sea. This is a comfort for my weary soul. This is the song that sings me to sleep when I lay my weary head on the pillow. And this is the rest that not only comforts, but heals all the broken places. "Come," Jesus says, "Come... and I will give you rest."