I have been writing for some time now on finding rest in God, and studying Sabbath Rest has been refreshing at times, but also frustrating. The thesis of Sabbath is resting in God. My imagination takes me to swinging in a hammock in a field on a warm spring day with a cool breeze ~ resting in His presence. This does paint a peaceful picture; I could day-dream about it for a while. However, my circumstances cause me to contemplate a hard question ~ what if resting in God is not easy breezy? What if resting in God is hard?
This past weekend I went to my favorite place to receive the rest and refreshing of God’s presence. I went as Jacob to my Bethel. Jacob returned there when he needed to hear from God. It was at my personal Bethel that I prayed, dreamed, and heard God speak promises into my spirit. I return to Bethel many moons later seeking much needed answers for situations in my life, and to pray over the promises God has graciously seeded into my heart. I sat, prayed, and listened, and though I felt His presence, I heard no answers. No epiphanies. No opened heavens pouring wisdom down on me. I sat in stillness. I explained to God that I needed answers, and still nothing.
How long, O Lord, will I call for help,
And You will not hear?
~ Habakkuk 1:2a
I brought on this pilgrimage to Bethel, a book by Mark Buchanan, The Holy Wild, (which if you do not own, consider yourself deficient) and his prose pricked my heart:
“Habakkuk throws that challenge skyward, then stands on the watchtower and waits. He doesn’t have to wait long. But some people do. Some people’s lives get stalled here. They hurl their questions skyward and watch to see what God will answer. They wait. They spend long nights and gray mornings waiting, scanning the unbroken sky for a sign. Any sign. Dramatic, subtle, gigantic, miniscule ~anything at all that signals divine response.”1
Heaven is brass. What did I miss? Why can’t I hear you?
“Where is God when He won’t answer me, or when His answers defy all my most cherished convictions about Him? God’s second answer to Habakkuk, though it comes swiftly enough, is almost as frustrating and cryptic as His first. Basically, God says, ‘Wait a little longer. Trust Me…’ In some ways, this again seems like no answer at all.”2
My heart sank when I read this. God breathed into my spirit ~ My grace is sufficient for you. The rest of the verse encourages Paul (and me), for power is perfected in weakness. Honestly, that is the last thing I want to hear. Do you know how long I have heard that? It brings me no comfort. My prayer journal reveals my heart ~ the day after I came home:
“You say your grace is sufficient for me, but Lord I don’t feel grace, I don’t feel wind beneath my wings, I don’t feel strength to go on, I feel drained, unmotivated, and lost. I feel foggy and unsure. I don’t feel Your breath on me, I feel like I don’t care anymore.”
“Wait, God says. Be patient. It will all work out in the end. That answer is infuriating in its vagueness and insipidness.”3
I pleaded with God to take the promise away. Unspeak it. Siphon it from my spirit. It’s too hard. It hurts too much. God lovingly answered back ~
If I take it off you, do you think it will take the pressure off and make your situation easier? The only reason you have been able to stand thus far, is that the promise remains on your life. That is the grace that sustains you. If you did not have the hope of that promise, of that deliverance, you would not make it. The Israelites were in slavery for 400 years, and if they did not have the promise of a deliverer, they would have all died in Egypt, breaking under the yoke of slavery ~ no light in their darkness. The promise is the grace that is sufficient for you and sustains you.
That is so powerful for all of us. The just live by faith.(Hab. 2:4) And as I cried out to God, I expressed my frustration in what I can’t see. I needed to see myself move. But God reminded me that the just live by faith. I may not see it, but I have to trust God that it is happening.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
~ Hebrews 11:1.
“And faith is finally this: resting so utterly in the character of God ~ in the ultimate goodness of God ~ that you trust Him even when He seems untrustworthy.”4
I never feel that God is untrustworthy, but sometimes His silence is deafening. In those times, the precious Holy Spirit brings the Divinely Inspired Word to my remembrance…
He that promised is faithful… (Heb. 10:23)
“God’s faithfulness is one divine characteristic that we rest in so completely that our rest has become apathy.”5
Sometimes having to rest in God is dark and lonely. Sometimes we feel stuck in our situations with no way out. But in the silence, like in the dark cave I spent the weekend in, I hear the still, small voice. I met the God of Elijah, who also found himself in a cave of loneliness, asking God to kill him.
“But I have also seen this: Here, especially here ~ in this silence, this darkness, this loneliness, this sorrow ~ many people meet the God of the Broken hearted. This is the God who sometimes just sits with us, silent, shadowy. This, too, is part of the Holy Wild where we meet the God whom Elijah knew, not in the exhilaration of the mountaintop, but in the loneliness of the cave, in the smallness of a whisper after windstorm and firestorm. The God whose faithfulness is displayed, sometimes in the storm and fire, but more often in bread enough for today, arriving in the most surprising ways.”6
God is so faithful to me. I asked God to kill the dream He placed inside of me. Just as with Elijah, He refused to let me die in the cave. He told me to get up and move.
He answered back to me, that He could not take the promise off my life because His gifts and calling are irrevocable. (See Romans 11:29)
So here I find myself resting in the faithfulness of God. It is not a rest I anticipated. I want the hammock in the pasture with wildflowers rest. I can rely on Him for that too, but that is not the rest I need now. He knows what I need better than I do. When Paul wrote about his experience and asked God to remove something from His life, He received the infamous “My grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) Paul wrote it in the midst of great suffering.
“The apostle Paul celebrated loud and long and eloquently the unfailing faithfulness of God. Yet what was his experience? ‘We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death… But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope.'”7 (2 Cor. 1:8-10)
On Him we have set our hope. On Him we have set our hope… He will deliver me, and though I am in a dark cave right now, looking for God in the fire and the windstorm, I find Him in the still small voice. God is faithful. (2 Cor. 1:18) He always is ~ He is immutable ~ He changes not. (Heb. 13:8)
If Paul can endure persecution ~ betrayal, beatings, stoning, lashes, disease and threat of death ~ my troubles are nothing; if Christ can humble Himself by being obedient to the point of death, certainly I can endure to see the promises of God fulfilled in my life. In that I can rest.
Find more of Piper’s musings at her blog: Witnessing the Divine
1Mark Buchanan, The Holy Wild: Trusting In The Character Of God,(Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2003), 39.