Rest is Presence
Rest is not about you, it's about Him. We think it's about us - our need for peace, our desire to slow down, our striving for greater contentment. That's why I started seeking rest in God - I needed His peace and to be closer to God. The chaos of the world, the brokenness of life, the issues I could not resolve, the elusive intimacy that I longed for, drove me to the only place I could be sure of - to the only One who knows and has the answers.
I thought it was me seeking, running after, pursuing Him.
But now I know that everything actually starts with Him - He woos us, and chases after us, that we might find rest. It is our Heavenly Father's will to give us rest, to provide Himself as our sanctuary, to take from us our stress in exchange for His peace. This is who God is - His very presence IS our rest. His love for you and for me is so great, that in response to nothing given on our behalf, He gives us everything. We bring nothing to the table - we can only approach because He first held out his hand to us - this is what I am learning.
Whether I choose to stop and physically rest, or whether my rest is an act of faith in God's ability to take care of me and my stuff, He is already there - He already has it covered - He is waiting for me. All that is required is that I step in and take hold of what is already mine - the gift of rest was given a long, long time ago, and at great cost.
As we have already considered, this journey of ours with God is, primarily, a journey of faith - we responded to Him in the first instance, in faith, albeit timidly and often in desperation. Nonetheless it was faith - a small step towards Him, in acknowledgement of our need, and He responded by scooping us up. He read our hearts - He knew all about us. And now, we are further down the road, for we have walked many miles with Jesus, and we have become wearied and drained and oh how good it would be to rest! We have forgotten that God’s very presence is our rest.
Moses would not travel with the Israelites on, and into the promised land, unless he knew with certainty that God would go with them, and in response to this desire, God reassures Him,
Exodus 33, 14
‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest’
Day in and day out, in the mundane, repetitive activities of daily life, in the stress of work, family, tragedy and crisis, God is present, and He will give us rest. His presence is His character, His nature, present with us in the here and now. That is, His peace, His provision, His goodness, His faithfulness, His protection. Believing these to be intrinsic aspects of who God is, drawing on these qualities of His, gives us rest.
In the moment of panic over finances or in the stress of things going wrong - in the challenge of illness or in loss, fear, anxiety, GOD HIMSELF is present and His presence provides us with the peace we crave, the reassurance we desire, the healing and restoration we long for.
He goes with us, and His presence gives us rest.
We are back again to faith. Back to making a choice to believe His word and His promises, or not. The choice is ours and only we can make it.
Do you remember Thomas? He refused to believe in the resurrection until he could physically touch Jesus' wounds, and Jesus said this to him:
"Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
So, it is with rest - it is an act of faith to stop the worrying, to stop controlling everything, and to let go. It is an act of faith to leave things undone, to stop, to take stock, even to drop the balls we are juggling. You know, it doesn't matter what it looks like, what anybody says, or how radical or even crazy our decision might be. What matters is whether we really believe that Jesus will and can do what He says He will and can do.
I believe that there is nothing more that God can give you - He has given you everything you will ever need (2 Peter 1 v 3) - if you crave stillness and rest, you can have it. It is yours! Take it - grasp it with both hands, and do not let go. Ever.
I believe that it is this rest that sets us apart as God’s people, from all the other people on the earth. It is the presence of God with us, in our traumas and in our struggles, that gives us the ability to rest, to exhibit peace and grace and calm, against all the odds.
Moses says just this to God, in Exodus 33 v 16,
“How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
This is my story - having grappled and wrestled over identity, having struggled with lack of role and purpose, I have finally found rest. These days I am content just to be, and to rest in my Father God’s promises. He does not lie, so I choose to believe Him both in the now and for my future.
His presence is enough.