Please know that this article is the result of my own processing, and is not a proclamation that I have it all together. Each of my next two articles about relationships have not been hastily-written or thoughtlessly-posted, but rather have been written with a lot of careful and heartfelt consideration (with counsel from trusted community). You may not agree, and that’s okay. Just know that what I write is what I’m learning for myself, not self-righteous advice I’m arrogantly offering the lowly around me. The reason I allow these lessons to be public is to allow God a chance to relate to others who are also learning. God has used my past failures and heartbreaks in that way. I have a book to prove it. And I trust that He will continue using my brokenness to somehow bring blessings out of the pain.
And with that, let’s begin…
After a solid, transparent conversation with a good friend about all the turmoil, fear, and grief going on in my life right now, he asked me, “What does it look like for you to rest in the Lord?”
I’d heard the phrase before, so I went to reach for the immediate canned response I thought all church staff people have. Nothing came out. I took a few more moments to try and come up with something–still nothing. “I’m going to have to think about that one for a while,” I said in defeat.
In that while, here is what I’ve realized (I’m about to get real honest here):
For starters, Jesus promises that if we who are tired and weary come to him, he will give us rest (Matthew 11:28-30). He’s not referring to rest as if it’s a break from work or some kind of refreshing nap. Bummer, I know. I love sleep, too. But no–he’s talking about something much bigger. He’s talking about internal peace.
We’re commanded to take a day off each week, but that’s a different concept with a separate purpose. Resting in the Lord can (and should) be all day, every day. It’s synonymous with comfort, confidence, and trust, which are ways of living, not sleeping. To rest in the Lord means to let go and be content not in what I can or can’t do, but in what’s been done for me. It means to find comfort from an individual relationship with God rather than any other relationship I can pursue. This especially pertains to marriage since its fundamental purpose is to reflect and honor Gods love for us.
David had the right idea when he said his soul found rest in God alone, adding that his salvation comes not by his own work, but from God (Psalm 62: 1-2). It’s pretty clear that we will never control the world (or people) around us, meaning the work of our own hand cannot give us rest. That’s why self-fulfillment is so often referred to as a bottomless bucket. Our contentment lasts only from the time we proudly drop our latest crowning achievement into that bucket to when it soon falls out of sight.
These fleeting moments of restful contentment come when we get the sense that we’ve done enough. That what we have is enough. But no matter how hard we work, it never lasts, which makes us tired and weary as we keep trying. Nothing we can do for ourselves can last. They’re not meant to. Our possessions (whether many or few), accomplishments (whether small or large), or relationships (whether romantic or platonic) are only a way to demonstrate our faith and love, not for ourselves, but for God. They are a celebration that He is enough, not a pitiful attempt of replacing or adding to Him.
Philippians 4:13 is probably one of the most commonly misused verses of the Bible. “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” is not about accomplishing difficult tasks. Most people gloss over what Paul said in the verse just before this: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” The infamous verse thirteen is that secret. Resting in what Christ has done for us despite any and every situation we might encounter is what makes the burden so light and the yoke so easy.
Knowing that God is enough and feeling it are two very different things. Like many, I’m a do-er… a fixer. I’ve kept a frantic pace of paddling my lifeboat forward to where I think I should be going across the water. And I’ve noticed two problems that are each connected to this illustration:
1. I have not been comfortable without someone in the boat with me. I’ve had mostly good intentions, but that’s a red flag for me. Because whether I get married one day or not, I’m stuck with myself. So I should probably be comfortable with who I, as an individual, am in Christ. That identity is not based on my relationship status, and I would venture to say that my potential future marriage will benefit from me being secure and confident in that identity.
2. I’ve very rarely let myself stop and just “be still” for a while. I’m out on this beautiful body of water in the middle of an incredibly powerful journey, but I’ve refused to take my focus off the shoreline ahead and just take a gander around me. It doesn’t have to be for long…just long enough to notice the scenery and make sure my own boat is holding up well. I’ve refused to stop paddling to let the water beside the boat become calm (something tells me Jesus likes to do that sort of thing). Because smooth water is the only way to reveal the reflection of who I am in Christ… without the goal… without the destination.
Surely I’m not the only one who needs to stop paddling toward my glorious-but-distant destination to admire the scenery and lean over to observe my reflection of who I really am in Christ. To be reminded of what it feels like to trust that God is enough. Because contrary to what the world tries to tell us, it’s who we are in Christ that determines our destination–not the other way around.