Truths to Rest in: Wrestling through Hindrances to Drawing Near
July 21, 2022
Living for Christ does not mean living free of any earthly woes. John 16:33 says, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” We are exiles within a culture hostile to God. Because of the power of Christ in us, and only by His power, is living in peace and rest possible. His power is the possibility for living abundantly within the curse of sin on the world, the trials and hardships of earthly life, the strife among humanity, and the patience needed to faithfully endure to the end of our journey. Rest in Christ is the grace He knew we needed to sustain us in well doing.
My Battle to Rest in Christ
As a teenager struggling with a spinal disease that left me relegated to body braces for nearly 8 years and then undergoing a major spinal surgery at the age of 16, I perceived a lack of faith as the reason God allowed my suffering. I posed these concerns with adult church leaders who would share stories of how they prayed for something to happen and how God had answered their prayer the way they desired. They had never experienced receiving an answer that didn’t align with their asking, I suppose. They just believed and it was. Or at least that is what they shared with me. Their story shaped their theology, but God’s word should be the ultimate source of truth – not our experiences. God can heal in an instant, but does He always? Does our level of faith dictate how God will move?
The Bible is full of people of faith facing unwanted things. Who wouldn’t ask for health, financial freedom, and personal success? That is what our flesh craves – comfort and ease. I literally made myself sick within trying to understand why this didn’t work for me. I questioned whether there was evil in my heart and intentions that I did not see (Oh, girl, God never meant for you to carry this!). I morphed into a people-pleasing, serve-anywhere-and-anytime kind of girl in an effort to experience this kind of answered prayer. Every time I prayed for relief and healing and another doctor visit and year rolled by without relief, I felt unheard and unseen by God. I was striving endlessly to be someone He would be proud of, forgetting that He died to bring peace to my striving soul. One thing I knew though: loving God shouldn’t make me soul-sick and physically ill. This contradicted everything I read in the Bible about rest and abundant life in Christ. He is a good Father who delights in His children and longs to know us.
Years later when I gave birth to a stillborn son and returned to church to see young girls having healthy babies out of wedlock, I wrestled with why them and not me. A theology of blessing and cursing was so prevalent in my mind, that I had no rest. My false understanding of OT Scripture and NT grace distorted the truth and beauty of what God promises to His children. What was promised to me. Reading Scripture reminded me that it rains on the just and unjust alike and that God gives and takes for His ultimate glory. I wouldn’t wish that excruciating pain on any of those young girls who were either new in their faith or yet to believe. Wrestling through my questions in the presence of God revealed my incorrect assessment of God and replaced bitterness with peace.
Truth that Leads to Rest
“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:31-32 ESV
The truth is that when we give our lives to Christ, we begin a relationship with God that has to be lived out in the everyday choices of our lives. We don’t abide to avoid drama or pain in our lives. We abide because the Spirit leads us to delight in Christ, our Savior. Having a desire to sit and learn from Jesus is a fruit of our salvation. Disciples follow their leader. For us, that is Christ. He is all truth, and when we know Jesus, we are freed by the truth of all He is. We learn about these truths from Scripture and prayer. This freedom gives us confidence to hold fast to the ways of a disciple.
What are some truths for overcoming our hindrances to resting in God?
Knowing that we are secure in Christ and are promised an eternal, imperishable inheritance allows us to rest (Ephesians 1:13).
Knowing the Holy Spirit is within each believer and gently guides us allows our souls to rest (John 14:26). We are never alone.
Having Scripture to refer to for answers keeps us from frantically floundering to find our own way (2 Timothy 3:16).
Knowing God provided a rhythm of work and rest to keep us from losing sight of how to obtain intimacy with God allows us to truly rest. We need the time to worship and think about God and His glory and majesty. He invites us to come (Matthew 11:28).
Knowing that Jesus gives us freedom from works of the law leads us to soul rest. Without a heart change, trying to please God is unpleasant and difficult. The Holy Spirit makes it possible and joyful (Romans 14:17). When we grieve the Spirit, we will also grieve. When we are yielded to the Spirit and living in obedience, the Spirit rejoices, and in turn, our joy is full.
Because of salvation, spiritual rest is ours, because we are sons and daughters of God through Christ.
We enter His rest through salvation – trusting in Christ’s work on the cross in faith. This allows us to confidently come before God as righteous, receiving the grace and mercy we need in time of need. Knowing this truth restores our souls.
Hebrews 4:16 – “Those who enter His rest, because of Christ’s work on the cross, can come boldly before the throne, receiving mercy and grace to help in their time of need.” This passage tells me that experiencing spiritual rest is both possible now and for eternity. We are always in need, always needing to boldly approach the throne, always needing mercy and grace. And He is always listening and working.
God wants to lead us beside the still waters and lay out a feast before us in the spiritual sense (Psalm 23). But we confuse this with the physical needs we want met. God cares about our physical needs and promises to provide what we need just as He does for the birds (Matthew 6:26). When we truly believe He is our provider, we can live at rest.
He is faithful and just to forgive those who humbly repent (1 John 1:9). He remembers it no more, and we can rest in full forgiveness.
There are so many more, but think about how great our salvation by grace is and how that frees us to walk in the good plans God has for us without condemnation. That alone will change your life, if you can grab hold and abide in it’s truth.
Realizing Spiritual Rest:
As we grow in the likeness of Christ through making every effort to seek the things of God, we can realize spiritual rest today. How do we obtain it?
Trust God (Matthew 6:25-34). Trusting God to meet our needs allows us to rest in His provision for our lives.
Show humility (I John 2:6). Christ humbled Himself to the point of death. We walk as He walked, humbly acknowledging our dependence.
Build dependence on God and not ourselves through enduring with confidence in His deliverance and rescue (2 Cor. 1:8-9).
Remain in fellowship and communication with Christ to be fruitful (John 15:5-8).
Be in community where safe accountability protects you from sin and hardness of heart (Hebrews 3:13).
Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your life (Colossians 3:16). Practically speaking, read your Bible.
Hold on to the hope of our promised, eternal rest (Hebrews 4:8-10). Believe one day is coming!
Spiritual rest on earth will never be what God wants for us if we live in unbelief or willful disobedience. A lack of trust keeps us from experiencing His best which is the real point of obtaining rest — to be at peace with God. He never lets us go, but we can drift from the closeness we need to live free.
Are you frustrated, disillusioned, anxious, fearful, or fatigued in faith? Do you feel yourself pulling away from God as these emotions surface?
Can I urge you to consider the root cause? What is true about God? What does Scripture say He promises to us, His people? Do you believe that Scripture is reliable and true? These are all things we must wrestle through when we stop experiencing the peace of God through His faithful presence in our lives.
Christ is our rest. He is calling all His weary children to find refuge in His presence and strength for every battle of life we will face. Be encouraged today, friends!