Yesterday I was searching. Frantically looking for rest and for comfort. For God to grant peace and stillness to me and take my mind off of trouble and stress.
Seems reasonable, right? Like going to the grocery store. I'm out of eggs and cheese so I go looking for eggs and cheese and then I buy them. Logical. I'm fresh out of patience and grace for the people around me and there is a large chunk of the entire world balanced on a single point right between my shoulder blades. It's bothersome. Dear God, I want you to remove it and make me happy and restful and at peace, amen. In my head I'm doing pretty good because I'm coming to God asking for these things and isn't that what He wants me to do? I'm not turning to alcohol or people or myself to address my need. I'm being dependent on Him for my well being and that's what He tells me is a wise thing to do.
But I still feel my backpack full of world-chunk. I still get raging pissed when the neighbor's yippy dog barks the same rhythmic car alarm bark for hours at nothing. I still have tense muscles and a bad attitude that betrays me to others like dandelions in a front lawn. No, you have not been taking care of your lawn. It's obvious.
We will always, in this life, be strugglers. We will never attain a perfect state on this planet. Struggles are OK, for sure, and God is not put off by the fact that we have them every day. Let's not have unrealistic expectations of how we go about existing on this strange plane between heaven and earth, trying to shed the latter for the former. But here's where it goes wrong- here is the difference between always feeling wrung out and actually being able to enjoy the rest or comfort from God that He promises quite confidently to us:
It's a simple matter of order of operations. The verse that I looked to seeking comfort (and have looked to for years) made me realize something completely different about "comfort" yesterday:
"Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light." -Matthew 11:28-30, NLT
Wait. Slow down. What is He essentially saying (and He takes the time to say it twice here, by the way)?
1) "Come to me... and I will give you rest." Ok. Got it. Simple. It looks like, "I need eggs so I go buy eggs."
2) "Take my yoke... Let me teach you... and you will find rest." Ok, Cas, I can read. What's the point?
The point is "I need eggs so I go buy eggs" or "I need rest so I go a-looking for rest" is NOT what Jesus is recommending we do here. There is an order of operations to having a peaceful, restful heart.
Jesus recommends that we come to Him, seeking Him. Seeking Him, not rest. Seeking Him and all He has to say with the intent of making Him the object you want to attain- not just what He can give you. It's true that our feelings of heaviness compel us to seek relief in the first place, but what we are signing up for is bound up in making Him our God first. And after that, yes, we will experience rest.
Coming to God just to get something out of Him is not what this life is all about. It's immature to treat God like that and yet I've lived my whole Christ-following life like this. Good thing He's, like, crazy gracious. He knows we start out with Him as spiritual infants. We only scream out when we need or want something. That's our whole interaction with Him: us coming to Him because we need, need, need. We are babies in our relationship with Him and it makes sense. But hopefully later on some sort of growth happens and we start coming to Him because of Him. Because He's wonderful to be with. Because His words and His perspective and His leadership is true life. Because He is God and it is right that we worship Him. Our God graciously makes worshipping Him awesome- it actually benefits us to worship God. But benefits are not to make us selfish to where we start regressing and thinking that we can just come to God on an "I need" basis. It's like calling your mom. Hopefully you call her to talk to her and see how she's doing, not just to tell her you need money.
"Come to me... take my yoke [ie let me be your God, requiring your surrender]... let me teach you [about the way I designed things to work, about how my economy is different than the system the world has taught you]..."
...and yes, don't worry, you will find the rest that you know you need. But why do you think that is? Not because rest is a currency or a cup of something that He doles out because we've been good. "Let's see... should I give her rest, peace or love... too many choices." No- because He IS rest. IS. The Greek word there for "I will give" in the first part of the verse does not mean "hand out." It means "to permit one to cease from any movement or labor in order to collect his strength." It is more of a state that happens to you or a permission, not a thing you receive. "Come to me and I will rest you. Calm you."
No doubt looking at God like this takes a little getting used to. He basically says when you are feeling the oppression of the weight of whatever you're carrying around, it's not rest and relief you need, it's Him. You need Him. Alone. I.E. your priorities probably need a shift and who you are ACTUALLY treating as your God probably needs some readjusting. I have noticed that my experience as a Christian human is at its most disgusting, not when circumstances are at their worst, but when I have started seeing God as a cosmic Santa Claus and my comfort as the end all (or, to be more blunt, my comfort is the god I'm actually trying to serve). Conversely, I can remember times when gnarly things were happening but because I decided early on I was gonna let go of my life and be His servant through and despite hard times, that amazing TRUE peace and rest was mine. That whole "peace that passes understanding" verse is real. Real if "peace that passes understanding" is a Person that I have a blood bought bond with who promised to never leave me. If what I have is Him, then yes, I have peace. "Aim at heaven," C.S. Lewis says, "and you will get earth thrown in." When I make myself small (and rightfully so) before His greatness and love, everything that I TRULY need (maybe even things that I forgot I needed or didn't realize I needed) comes to me too cleanly and naturally to be mistaken for anything but His care.