Rest is rarely undervalued by those who have had it the least. Only those who have fought the hardest, traveled the farthest, or waited the longest, can feel the depth of utter, complete sense of relaxation and peace. It is felt deep down in mind, body and soul; a releasing of worry, tension, and being on guard for whatever threat or dreaded task may confront them next. They realize the precious gift of rest, knowing it will never be taken for granted again, because no matter how hard it was sought after, it was oh so elusive.
This is how the Isrealites felt in Joshua 21:43-45. And truth be told, this is how I have felt. It is with a sense of wonder, when God uses Scripture and His people from long ago to relate to me and give me comfort. Who would have thought there was so much in common between battle weary wanderers thousands of years ago and myself in 2016? Both experiencing long sought rest that only God Himself can give.
“So the LORD gave Israel all the land He had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as He had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD handed all their enemies over to them. Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled. ”
Rest……..on every side. Promises, every one, fulfilled. Don’t you know they breathed the biggest sigh of relief when each came to his own land and had no more fighting, no more wandering?! They felt settled. Finally!
God had sworn, but they had not always believed. Now the nation was experiencing, yet again, the mercy of a Great God! This mercy was far and above more impactful because it was the fulfillment and completion of a long, difficult journey; where they had no idea of what to expect daily, or the duration of their ordeal. The “not knowing” can make a hard journey even longer and more burdensome.
But now! Now it was over and they felt rest! Not one of God’s promises had failed them. Had the journey been brutal at times? Yes, but His promises still provided for them, both in the challenges and later, from the challenges.
This affirms what I have learned concerning “rest”. In some ways, I have been on varying journeys that seem to have come to completion in 2016. One road has taken 19 years to travel, while another only 5. But what made these times more difficult was how they overlapped each other, with the degree of intensity peaking for both in 2013. And now 3 years later, it seems both seasons of “wandering the unknown treacherous highways” are coming to an end, just as it did for the Israelites. I am finally experiencing rest in both of these areas. It is still new, and even strange I would admit, to not have these battles still waging. That is why I could resonate with the Israelites as they transitioned from one “norm” into a another. What I have learned through this time has boiled down to 3 lessons concerning rest for the weary.
1. Rest is God-given. No amount of my working can bring an end to my journey or circumvent a journey that I do not want to take. I am on it whether I like it or not and I cannot change that. I heard a youth pastor from Colorado say, ” We cannot skip a season, but we can sure waste one.” I heard this while I was still ” wandering and fighting” through these two particular journeys so this definitely hit home with me. I learned to stop fighting against my circumstances and instead, start fighting through them. This was accomplished by my accepting the road God had me on and seeking to make the most of it through squeezing out every ounce of truth and perspective God would give me. I submitted to what He wanted of me: faithfulness and cooperation.
2. God’s promises provide rest while still on the journey . I found God’s promises were applicapable even while I wandered. Just like the Israelites eating manna and quail, drinking from rocks in the desert, and their clothes and shoes not wearing out over forty years, God provides for His children always. It may not be in the way we want, as in a shortcut through the struggle, but He is faithful continually. His gives us many, many promises in His Word that we can cling to during those difficult days, months, or years. I can testify how He gave me strength, comfort, guidance, and so much more. I am actually better off as a believer and as a person in my family and community. It made the difference between perseverance and defeat by consistently going back to my Bible for what I needed most. It is there I found His promises to grab hold of, refusing to let go, no matter what loomed in front of me. Writing verses down, meditating on them, praying them over and over, made such a difference! I found this list very thorough in citing so many of the Lord’s promises that help in the midst of the difficult journey. Click to open in a new tab.
I also found rest as I sought to worship, regardless of my circumstances. Worship music ministered to me greatly during those times. It gave me encouragement and perspective to continue on, even when I wanted to sit down and refuse one more step, one more day. This was one of my favorite songs.
3. The Lord can provide rest on all sides. It can seem like the road will never end, but eventually, one way or another, rest is coming. I began to think in my weakest moments that the journey would never end because I could not envision how it would end. That made life more difficult as I “leaned on my own understanding “. ( Proverbs 3:5) But I kept going back to His promises. I refused to believe He would fail me. I knew, either this side of heaven or the other side, I was going to have relief! On all sides!
Are you battle weary like the Israelites? Are you fighting against your circumstances like I was? The Lord offers rest with His countless promises no matter how fatigued you may be feeling. Not one, no not one will fail because He is faithful even when we are faithless. But you must look for them and cling to them until it is your turn to cross the Jordan, where there is rest on all sides! From one sojourner to another, one step at a time, one promise at a time, until that day.