Have you ever puzzled over how it works that we are in a ‘fight of faith’, armed to the hilt against the ‘schemes of the devil’, ever alert and persevering, ever praying for ‘all the saints’… and yet called to REST. In fact we’re called to ‘strive to enter that rest!’ I don’t know about you but I find this a challenging balancing act.
On carefree days, preferably with the sun shining and ‘everything going my way’ (and Mr. Bluebird on my shoulder), I can see quite clearly that rest has to do with maintaining a calm and confident faith in God that knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that He is both present and working for my best good in everything.
But then there are those days… when the body has its ills and the weather is dismal besides. Or perhaps prayers don’t appear to be heard and circumstances seem daunting in one way or another. Then the enemy of our souls, not known to ‘play fair’, zeroes in on our weakest points and whispers his toxins in our ears… gloomy things, hopeless things, reminisces that make the present seem disappointing, fearful prognosis—dismal thoughts to drag down soul and body. The interplay of physical and spiritual is not always obvious. Yes, maybe a good nap and some heart-pumping exercise would do wonders to clarify the situation. I’ve found these to be spiritually beneficial solutions at times. But sometimes there is more to it. When weariness washes desire for everything away, even the passion of one’s calling (and the nap doesn’t fix it)… look out for sabotage.
The temptation may be to ‘throw in the towel’ on some ministry we thought was our calling…or to just shrug and not care about anything…or to grumble, whine, stone somebody, or go to bed for the rest of the day! How do we resist? This is where it helps to have that foundation of trust in God’s goodness and presence with us, firmly laid. The active acknowledgment of these truths will keep the muscle in our faith and prevent us from being easy prey for the enemy’s taunts: “Where is your God?” and the subsequent accusations he knows best how to tailor to our weaknesses.
What do I mean by ‘active acknowledgment’? Well, I’m thinking along the lines of thanksgiving and praise and rejoicing in the Lord, who after all is my strength. I keep being brought back to these themes.
I’ve been memorizing Psalm 32 with Rachel. This is David’s celebration of finding forgiveness after a wearisome harboring of sin. It concludes: “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” He’s excited! Reciting this aloud with enthusiasm is counter-intuitive some school mornings. But it surely is a safeguard against the gloomies! Another line in this psalm says: “You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.”(32:7) What is that supposed to mean–‘shouts of deliverance’? I haven’t done any formal word studies or read any commentaries on this but as I mulled it over I pictured God calling out something like: “Over here! Grab the lifeline… here’s the way out” and I thought of Paul’s words about temptation: ‘and He will make a way of escape that you may be able to bear it’ (I Cor.10:13).
If I believe this, my response will be to look to God for the way out. If I don’t… well, likely I’ll sound like the thirsty Israelites in the desert: “Is the LORD among us or not?” (Ex.17:7) They seemed to even exasperate God! After all He’d done to show them His loving care and continuous presence, had they forgotten everything? (Have I?) Even the cloud over their heads (while they complained) sparing them from the blazing heat of noonday sun in the desert? And now they’re ready to stone Moses and run back to Egypt’s ‘free’ food. God did not look lightly on their whining. He saw it as rejection of Himself:
And since trusting in His care was their only hope of getting to a place of rest, they got to wander restless for the remainder of their lives.
I don’t want that to be my lot! I don’t really want to be a doubting whiner who panics every time life seems rough. God has chosen to call me His own and to stick with me through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer… committed to my eternal well-being. He invites me to bring my requests with the assurance that He hears each one (I Jn. 5:14,15). He supplies me with all the armor I need for any battle and the sword of His word besides. He asks me to stand firm in faith, nothing flinching, resting in His strength… Surely I can rest in His commitment to me and learn to live out my vows in return. He is mine, and I am His. Nothing can separate us. Will I struggle in this union or learn to rest? Surely I pay Him the highest honor when I choose thanksgiving and turn my gaze His direction when temptation oppresses.
“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Ps.50:14)
“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to the one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God.” (Ps.50:23)
David had to talk to his soul at times when oppression mounted and good times seemed just a memory “Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?… while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” (Ps.42:9,10) but his thirst was set on God: “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”(Ps.42:2) and his hopes were all there too. That’s the way I want to live. And I thank you for listening in this post as I have given my own soul a ‘talking to’ from all the words that have encouraged me this week.
“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you and evil and unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” (Heb. 3:12)
“By this I know that you delight in me: my enemy will not shout in triumph over me. But you have upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in your presence forever.” (Ps. 41:12)