Entering into His Rest

For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to take the holy advice of my Christian friends and find rest in my Savior. It’s proven to be one of most disturbingly painful experiences of my life thus far.

A few months ago, I told the Lord that I wanted to draw closer to him. He said, “OK,” then proceeded to drag down all of my internal supports and kick me onto my face. All of my usual coping mechanisms for dealing with life’s hardships were suddenly rendered null and void. I became incapable of carrying the burdens that I normally carried. Now I struggle to pray for myself, let alone anyone else. The light of joy that had finally begun to blaze in my heart weeks before has flickered and grown dark. Most of the time when I’ve tried to explain to others what’s going on with me, they stare at me like I have three heads. The grief and humiliation has been almost beyond bearing.

If there’s a level of brokenness beyond this, I don’t want to know about it.

The few times that I have been able to pray, I have asked God to help me enter His rest. Up until recently, though, the help didn’t appear to be forthcoming. Finally, in frustration, I asked God, “Will I ever enter your rest?”

He answered, “I don’t know. Will you?” 

I…what?!

At the time, I didn’t understand what He meant. Wasn’t my desire for His rest enough? Shouldn’t He just bring it to me? Why all the turmoil? What was left for me to do?

A lot, actually.

For those of you who grew up in church, you may recall seeing the paintings of Jesus as the Good Shepherd with a lamb around his neck. The story goes that, in ancient Israel, shepherds would break the legs of lambs who wandered away too many times from the safety of their flocks. They would then carry the lambs on their shoulders until the legs healed. In that time, shepherd and lamb would form an intimate bond in which the lamb would learn to trust the shepherd completely.

I have a terrible habit of running around and getting involved in a lot of stuff that interferes with my ability and willingness to just sit and listen to the Savior’s voice. It’s not that I run away from Jesus, it’s just that I get too far ahead of him and try to do things in my strength and timing instead of his. So when I said I wanted to draw closer to him, there was only one thing left for him to do: break my legs.

Shortly after I came to this realization, I began meditating on the 23rd Psalm. There’s that verse that says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” He makes me. I can just imagine Christ unceremoniously dumping my limp, useless self onto a patch of soft grass and saying, “Linger in this beautiful place a moment,” while I quiver and paw the ground in restless agony. It kind of puts a whole new spin on the Psalms.

But while I’ve been lying there in that patch of grass, nursing my terrible brokenness, he’s been whispering to me: This ministry I’m preparing you for – it’s not about you. It’s about me. I didn’t call you because you’re talented. I called you because you’re willing. I don’t need your talents; I just need obedience. My power is made perfect in weakness. Be still and know that I am God. Trust me. These burdens that you’re carrying are too heavy for you. You were never meant to carry them. Put them down. Leave them to me. Fear not. Just focus on me and I’ll do the rest. 

He just wants to talk to me. He just wants to hear me say I love him. He just wants me to sit and listen.

Even if it’s just to hear him breathe.

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10 responses to “Entering into His Rest

  1. I believe what you are describing here may be what is known among mystics as a “Dark Night of the Soul”:

    http://www.eckharttolle.com/newsletter/october-2011

    There are two kinds of Christians, those who know God primarily as the Divine Lawgiver and those who know God primarily as the Divine Lover. Both perspectives are valid, of course; but are quite different ways of knowing God. The faith of the legalists is fear-driven, while the faith of the mystics is love-inspired. Mystics are spiritual erotics. Although legalists and mystics may share many beliefs, their spirituality is quite different. Legalistic faith is never transformative, in fact it often leads to the exact opposite of the spiritual pilgrimage to which Jesus has called us:

    The Wrong Way to Read the Bible

    http://theresurgence.com/2010/10/10/the-wrong-way-to-read-the-bible

    Two opposite errors exist in approaching the Bible. One is not to read it. The other is to know it so well that you miss Jesus. Jesus pointed out this error: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40).

    Are you surprised to believe this error exists? We constantly talk about reading and studying the Bible as an unqualified good. But clearly, the way we read the Bible is just as important as reading it.

    Missing Jesus

    So how can you know if you might be reading the Bible, looking for life, but missing Jesus completely? Here are a few clues:

    • You read the Bible to reinforce what you believe, not challenge what you believe.
    • You imagine yourself as the type of person who believes the things you read about.
    • You think the things you read are especially applicable for people you know, but not for you.
    • You imagine yourself as the hero of the story, not the person or people who are unbelieving. You frequently ask in your heart, “How could these people be so unbelieving?” For instance, when you read the story of the Israelites wandering in the desert you might say, “How could those Israelites grumble about food and drink when they just saw God part the Red Sea?” But you are completely blind to how you grumble at work or home when you’re afraid of losing something.
    • You love the attention garnered from your knowledge of the Bible, but give little thought to how you have applied what you have read.

    Maybe the Bible should come with a warning label: “Beware: reading this book incorrectly will make you twice as fit for hell as when you began.”

    Don’t miss Jesus. Go to him and find life.

    Matthew 23:15 (New International Version)
    15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

  2. Dear April, you have been invited into the abyss. Do you remember when the sons of Zebedee (also known as the “sons of Thunder”!) went -at their fond mama’s instigation- and demanded that when Jesus came into his kingdom they should be seated “one upon his right hand and the other upon his left”? He then asked them if they could drink the cup He must drink, but of course, they had no idea what He was talking about!
    1) He had to bear the sins of and receive the punishment due all mankind,
    2) He bore the full sorrow of that burden, the grief and despair that goes with those sins, AND
    3) He had to be fully separated from the Father, a terrible thing that had never been so since before all the ages, as He is one with and begotten of the Father!

    He has dipped HIs little finger in the cup and shared it with you because you asked Him to-but not one of us frail little creatures is adequately equipped to catch even a glimpse of that yawning chasm of sorrow and separation.
    “…for only those that bear the cross, may hope to wear the glorious crown!”
    -Hymn, Take up your Cross

    And talking of lambs, it was written of Jesus that He went, “like a lamb led to the slaughter, or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and uttered no cry” – well, I cry and struggle and carry on too, broken legs or no! But the Spirit offers our prayers “with inexpressible groanings” even when we are numb. Try to take comfort in the fact that just your willingness to accompany Him has made Jesus a little less lonely and sad.

  3. April: I know this has been the most challenging time of your life. Now that you are on the backside of this abyss you have this solid experience of knowing that God is your everything!! I am so excited to see what He is going to do with your life. I have known from the time you were very young that you have a very special calling on your life. You are a blessing to many and will be to many more through the ministry that God will place you in. I am praying for you as are so many more here. Keep listening as you lie in those beautiful green pastures. He will surely bring you rest!!

  4. I would call a good psychologist and psychiatrist. This does not sound like a spiritual journey to me. I went on some “spiritual journeys” just like this in the 1980s. As it turned out, it really was not a spiritual journey. I was just sick and needed help that God had already made handy in my local community. A good health insurance policy helps too. Just sayin’.

  5. P.S.

    “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

    If something is talking to you—I would question who IT is.

    • I agree: His burden is easy and light. That’s the whole point: He’s trying to get me to drop the burdens that I have insisted on carrying for years – things that aren’t His will and are only wounding me over time. He’s also bringing me to a place of desperation so that I’ll draw close to Him and stop relying on myself for everything. In spite of the pain, some very healthy things are coming out of this journey: I’m strengthening my friendships, asking for help when I need it, establishing boundaries, and taking time every day for rest. These are things I sincerely believe God is directing me to do. He is showing me that I can’t be effective in ministry if I try to do everything on my own. As you say, community is important.

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  8. Yes indeed I know the feeling !! I’m in that painful place also and the darkness and confusion is rough! But I’m reminded that God is for me and He will never leave me.He will get us there 🙂 however painful,lonely and dark it may be,we are not staying here! 🙂