Rest is a concept that grows with you as you grow. I’ve been interacting with the idea of rest since I was a very young believer, you know, Sunday. The day of rest. But as a kid, rest is nap time. As a teen, rest is not something you ever want to do. Rest? Boring. You want to be living, moving, on adventures, hanging out with friends. Go. There’s life to be lived. Rest is for old people.
There is some truth to that, but what I didn’t grasp when I was young was just how hard life can get. I didn’t know how heavy ordinary, everyday things could be.
As an adult, we have never ending responsibilities. Some of them are pretty small…is there gas in the car? Navy shoes or black shoes? Some of them feel huge: taxes, children, big money choices. When we’re not making those decisions, we’re dealing with the consequences, good or bad, of decisions we made in the past. Some are small consequences…pizza yesterday means salad today. Some are huge consequences: go back to school, switch jobs, have kids. All these things, good and bad, weigh on us. They all do. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. It’s easy to want to curl up on the couch and just vegetate.
On top of all the responsibility, comes the constant frustration of our work never going perfectly. We try to feed and clothe our families and we can’t even get the laundry folded on the same day…or days. We cook a meal and it doesn’t come out like we want it. Money doesn’t come in or go out like we plan. Cars break down…generally when we need them to work most. People get sick, and stay sick. The To Do list never ends. Something that should be simple turns into something complicated. Nothing is ever perfect.
Even as an artist, things aren’t perfect. I pour my soul into my work and it never comes out like I want it to, or people don’t get it. Decorating our homes: all the measuring in the world and things still come out imperfect. Plant a garden: half the plants die and the other half get eaten, or burnt up by the sun. All the good intentions in the world coupled with diligent work can’t make things turn out right.
Imperfection haunts our every move. And this is just every day, ordinary imperfection. This doesn’t even cover all the ways our own sins destroy our lives. Our selfishness, coldness, anger, and bitterness hurt our families, our churches, and our neighbors.
Oh how we long for rest. We dream of nights not haunted with worry. We dream of days not spoiled by things again not functioning. We dream of perfect work.
As a Christian going through sanctification, rest becomes more and more dear. God graciously and gently weans us from this world and all the frustrations in it. As we age, these frustrations stack one on top of the other. We never have a day where we can face our reflection content that we have done our best. We didn’t. We were lazy. We can’t say we finished all our tasks, there is always something we didn’t get to. We can’t face ourselves and say, “Soul, this was a perfect day, rest now.” That kind of compete rest only comes in the Lord, and ultimately comes only in heaven.
As a kid, rest sounded boring. As an aging adult, it is one of the few things I can hold onto that gets me through a day. And Sundays? Our day of rest? They’re sweet beyond sweet. When I walk through the doors of the church building I think “Someday, someday this will be my every day. Someday the work will be perfectly and happily done. The ordinary, oh-so-many-papers, work will be done. I’ll love those around me without any sin, and be loved without sin in my turn. I’ll be at rest. Rest. Oh blessed thought.”
The older I get the more I long for the Lord’s Day. Each week, I long to gather with the saints to hear the preaching of the word. I long to step aside, for one day, from the world and all its chains. The day comes and it isn’t perfect. You have donkeys in the ditch. You have sickness. You have sin. But this earthly day of rest points to the heavenly rest. It points to the day I’ll join Christ, and the saints that have gone before, and really rest.
Rest doesn’t mean an eternal game of golf, it means perfection in work and recreation.
Think of that: perfection!
I will no longer end my day with regrets, wishing I had done this instead of that, wishing I’d loved my husband more and myself less, wishing I’d just rested more or rested less. Someday, I’ll be without sin.
That is true rest. True rest is really living, really living without sin, really living with Christ.
So, younger saints, know that the Lord will lead you down this path too. You will have the weight of the world slowly bend you over, even in this easy life we live as Americans in the 21st century. Start working now to have your soul ready: be in church every time the doors are open. That is the only way to make it through this thing called life with any grace.
Older saints, cling to our hope, our hope which will be fulfilled. We will see Christ. We will gather together in Heaven and perfectly rest for eternity. We will perfectly work for eternity. We will perfectly love for eternity. This life is a battle ground, but the war is already won. It’s already done. These are just the final fights. Cling to Christ. Cling to his promises. Our mighty Capitan has already gone before us. We have only to follow, and He will see us safely across the dark waters to eternal rest. Such a sweet thought.