Let us therefore strive to enter that rest…
I’m still trying to teach Mark exactly how to stop when he’s in the hurry and the pressure of the moment. But that’s okay because I know from personal experience that hitting the pause button takes practice. It takes work. And the author of Hebrews knew this, too.
Reread the Scripture verse above and take a close look at the word in bold. (The formatting is mine.) To strive means to work, to put forth effort and to make an attempt at something. If I’m honest, I often only long for God’s rest. I want it, but my choices and actions never truly show an attempt to enter into it. Simply put, God makes the gracious offer and provides the instruction on how to get there. But we must accept His invitation and take the steps necessary to actually experience it. God’s opened the door and invited us in, but we have to purposefully walk through to experience His peace-filled company.
This might sound silly, but sometimes I can’t help but think that God often feels about us the same way I used to feel about Mark during the first few weeks he was finally home.
He was two-and-a-half years old and a tiny little thing, so tiny that clothing made for three to sixth month old infants fell right off his bony, brown frame. Yet his tummy was tight and protruding from severe malnutrition. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise as we adopted Mark internationally from an extremely impoverished country, but the juxtaposition of these polar opposites was alarming.
While we knew nothing about Mark’s genetic conditions, medical issues or special needs yet, Mark did show some behaviors—or rather lack of—that were concerning. My greatest concern was the fact that Mark wouldn’t feed himself. I was desperate to get food into his hard, bulging belly. But no matter how hungry I knew he had to be, Mark simply would not lift the food to his own mouth.
“Mark,” I said. “Aren’t you hungry? Here. Eat!”
Then, I’d place a bowl or plate of food in front of him, watching and waiting to see if he’d take the bait. But sadly, Mark would predictably just sit there.
It became almost comical. I would say the same things, offer him food and Mark would do little more than flash a toothy grin at me. Nate, meanwhile, would chow down and wonder why Mark wasn’t doing the same.
It took time, but thankfully Mark finally got there. He learned that—while I would eventually spoon-feed him (I wasn’t going to let him starve!)—he would eat a whole lot more quickly if he just picked the food up and fed himself. The food was there. I gave the instructions and Nate, his big brother and dining companion, provided the example to follow. All Mark had to do was put it all to use.
Again, much to my relief, he eventually got there. Mark finally learned how to self-feed. But, oh, how my heart ached in the process, watching Mark just sit there literally starving with a plate full of food in front of him. It’s right there! Just do it! Pick it up and eat it!
Sometimes I wonder if this is how God feels while watching us suffer, too?
Come (Matthew 11:28)!
Just stop (Ecclesiastes 4:6).
Be still (Psalm 37:7).
Lean on me (1 Peter 5:7).
I’m with you (Isaiah 41:10).
Rest (Exodus 33:14).
How it must break God’s heart when we decline His invitation for rest with our actions, choosing worry, fear and doubt in lieu of His loving and easy yoke (Matthew 11:29-30).
But all is not lost, not even when we’re suffering. Just being aware of God’s invitation and instructions to rest and our own tendencies towards the opposite is the first step. The next is recognizing that we need to rest in God not just because of the obvious benefits, but because that’s what He desires for us to do (John 14:27). When we truly rest in God, it’s evidence of our faith and trust in His power, plan and timing. After all, who are we to question Him? Yet often that’s exactly what we allow our choices, thoughts and actions to do.
Like this post? It’s taken from Going for Broke: How to Suffer Well. (Click here to find it on Amazon.)