ISSUES OF FAITH: Seek God for the rest you truly need

“COME TO ME, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” (Mat 11:28 ESV).

I assumed I had thought of everything as I fell asleep only hours before my maiden voyage to go halibut fishing this past month.

I had bought my license, the necessary supplies and filled the boat with fuel.

My two friends and I left at 4 a.m., and as I made my way down the road I began to feel a distinct vibration in the truck.

As I approached the next stop sign I saw in my rear-view mirror smoke billowing out of the left side of the boat trailer.

We limped the truck and trailer into a nearby gas station.

Getting out I saw that the left hub on the trailer was completely gone, with nothing but the spindle and fragments of what used to be the bearings showing.

Just then we noticed fluid pouring out from the front of the truck.

My radiator decided that it was a good time to die.

Calling for a tow truck for the boat trailer, and using anything and everything available in the gas station to repair my radiator, my friends and I refused to give up on our dream of finding some rest and relaxation on the water that day.

We were able to get the boat trailer home and the radiator fixed.

We waited until the part store opened and fixed the trailer hub.

A few hours of labor later we were back on track to being on the water.

It is amazing how hard some people work to rest.

Our Lord knows our need for rest.

This is why he doesn’t just suggest it, but commands it (Ex 20:8).

However, the rest that he commands is not the rest that we find ourselves striving for.

For some the best rest is found on the white sand beaches of the Caribbean, or far above the tree line with backpack on their shoulders.

But, at best, those things are mere distractions and not true rest.

They may provide a silence that enables you to reflect on your life, but they do not give you a place to put your worries, surrender your anxieties and find relief from your guilt.

Only in Christ do we truly find that rest.

Only in Christ are we reassured of how God provides for our need (Matt 6:31-33; Rom 8:32).

Chiefly he provides an eternal perspective that comforts us here and now.

He tells us that because of his atoning work on the cross, and through our baptism we are united to an eternal hope that supplies confidence even though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the sea (Col 2:11-12; Titus 3:5-7; Ps 46).

In Christ, and as you come to him for rest, you do so not hoping to be distracted from your problems, but dealing with them directly with the one who has power over heaven and earth (Col 1:15-20).

For many, the reason for going to church becomes skewed and no longer is found receiving comfort from the one who bids us come to him (Matt 11:28), takes our sorrows (Is 53), and supplies a peace that is unlike anything this world could offer (Jn 14:27).

Throughout the years going to church can become an opportunity for some to present themselves as being better than others, to push their agenda or to prove to themselves they are a good person.

They work so hard for rest, and they never get any because they lose sight of that cross that is so prominently displayed above the altar and the true reason we gather to sing of God’s mercy and rejoice in his grace.

Going to church is so simple: we gather together, weary from the chances, changes and challenges of life, and lay them all before the one who has the power to raise the dead (2 Co 1:9).

This is something you can do in torn jeans, coming in right after a long shift, with tears in your eyes, and grit under your fingernails.

It is not how we look, where we have been, what we have done or how we can pretend to be someone we are not.

The rest we need, that God commanded us to run to routinely, is found in how we can simply look up to heaven and plead “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13), knowing that he hears us (1 Jn 5:14-15), will forgive us (Eph 1:7-12), and will strengthen us through his word (Matt 4:4; Rom 10:17; 2 Cor 12:9; Heb 4:12).

One of the most beautiful images that I am blessed to see every Sunday is the body of Christ coming together and receiving our Lord in the common cup of communion.

In that, I get to witness how we are all in need of the same grace, same power and same encouragement regardless of what our week looked like or temptations we gave into.

In that, I am blessed to witness the comfort that is articulated in the hymn Rock of Ages, “Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to thy cross I cling.”

As these coming weeks and months of summer unfold and we all see the droves of trailers and tourists come into town, think of how hard some work for rest.

Think of how so many chase after the wind (Ecc 1:14) and never will experience the rest we have been created for, and the rest that has been accomplished for us (Mark 2:27).

Think of all that, then run to the one whose arms stand wide open to receive you (Matt 11:28-29) and who bear you up in those same arms (Is 40:11) supplying you the ability to simply be still (Ps 46:10) and experience rest for your soul (Ps 62:5).

_________

Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Patrick Lovejoy is minister of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. He can be contacted at 360-457-4122 or pastorlovejoy @rocketmail.com.

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