This month I had the seemingly IMPOSSIBLE task of preparing to share a devotion at my local Homeschool Support Group Meeting…
Bickering children, busy schedules, teenagers, the endless practicing of recorder for an upcoming concert… it was so difficult to find enough quiet to prepare an encouraging word. Most debilitating of all was the HEAVINESS resting on me (which I know rests on each and every one of us), hard things, discouraging things – bad reports abound, my prayer list growing by the minute… health scares, marriage challenges, parenting struggles, aging parents, the sometimes all-consuming task of homeschooling, and the insecurity of “am I doing enough?”, especially when our schedule just doesn’t seem to work from day to day… how could I possibly encourage others when I felt so discouraged myself?
The picture I kept getting for the meeting was of sinking into His grace like I would sink into a cozy chair…earlier in the week, I shared this with a prayer partner who asked me what to pray for, and she said her picture of this, included the hands of God holding me down in the chair, to fully receive HIS grace and rest, instead of my natural inclination to get up to do everything else that needed to be done…
The scripture for the meeting was 2 Cor 12:8-9
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
It would be easy to focus on the traditional approach of this verse – on our weaknesses… but when we are discouraged, these are EASY to see and be overwhelmed by. Instead, I’d like to look at the last part of these verses…
…so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Each year I ask God for just one Word for the year. A few years ago that word was – REST. So now whenever I see or hear it, my “radar” picks up on it…and I try to listen to what the Spirit might be saying… that year, I came across the writings of Walter Brueggeman, notably his book Sabbath as Resistance.
In it he outlined how Sabbath was God’s gift to us. Taking it further it (Sabbath) is His example to man, of walking in His image. He created and he rested – and said it is good.
I wonder, how often do we “create” and then REST long enough to look at what we’ve done and say “It is good?” This work in my home, this mountain of laundry I’ve conquered, this meal I’ve prepared, this parenting I’ve done…it is good! This is Sabbath, this is sacred – as it is accomplished as we rest in Him, as we abide in Him, and His finished work – we can see, indeed, it is good.
Brueggeman continues to point out that later on in the story of His people, God used Sabbath (REST) to define and distinguish the Israelites from all the other nations of the earth… those who toiled day and night to survive… but these were a people who knew that abundance came from God, not labour. They were blessed despite the fact that they rested on a regular basis, weekly, annually (with feasts) and sometimes for up to year (JUBILEE).
“Sabbath is not simply the pause that refreshes. It is the pause that transforms. Whereas Israelites are always tempted to acquisitiveness, Sabbath is an invitation to receptivity, an acknowledgment that what is needed is given and need not be seized.” (WB)
Rest is not inactivity, it is a state of being. Being in Christ.
Sacred rest and reflection requires TIME.
Time is needed to process joy, sorrow, mourning, loss, accomplishment…
We need to take the time to say “it is Good”.
When we choose to REST regularly, it reveals how odd and rare the practice of rest and reflection is in our culture. As we move slower through our days, we will see others around us moving at fast forward, frantically trying to keep time that there never seems to be enough of. Yet Sabbath reveals that there IS enough time. In fact time is infinite, sprawling and unchanging . God gives us time as a gift, a tool to love each other and to find peace and love in Him.
“Sabbath becomes a decisive, concrete, visible way of opting for and aligning with the God of rest.” WB
This season of Advent, is a season of Sabbath…
We “resist” the powers of this world by practicing REST – rest is not “inactivity – it is freedom from labour, freedom from anxiety.
Matt 11:28 “Come to Me, all [a]who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Rest is also a “weight”. Something “rests” on us– like that of glory. His grace RESTS on us. When we Sabbath, we remember HIM…and give place to Him in life.
I heard a message once that outlined how the first time the word “grace” appears in the Bible is in the story of Noah…
“Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8)
Noah’s name means “rest,” so the verse is showing us here that
…“Rest found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”
Isn’t it interesting how the enemy gets us off-track by getting us out of rest?
How does he do this? By getting us into self-effort, trusting in our own abilities to solve our problems. Sometimes this is even just in our worrying… Our enemy wants us running around frantically looking for a solution, feeling anxious and troubled. But God wants us restful, trusting in Him and allowing Him to lead us. Look at Jesus in the gospels.
No one was more restful than Him, yet no one was more effective than He was.
Jesus rested in the love of His Father and only did what He saw His Father doing—there was no self-effort. Beloved, we must stop striving through our own efforts and rest in the Lord’s love for us. Rest by trusting in His finished work.
That’s how we allow Him to direct us with divine wisdom to His divine solutions. That’s how we allow His grace to abound in our lives. His grace will stop addiction. His grace will drive out disease. His grace will fill our areas of lack and lead us to abundance and peace. (Joseph Prince)
So when our prayer list seems to be growing by the minute, perhaps one way to turn it on it’s head, is to lengthen our gratitude lists and our “it is good” lists…demonstrating our ongoing dependence on our Creator and recognizing how we are HIS… and demonstrating our resistance to any other way of operating. Remaining in His REST.
Each week of Advent we are reminded to recognize the HOPE, PEACE, JOY and LOVE of God. We do this by entering into His REST…