In my last post, we looked at a one-sentence prayer from John Owen, chock-full of encouragement and guidance. It’s the kind of food for thought we’re drawn to here at Readplenish. To find a permanent place of rest has been the longing of every human heart since we were driven from the garden (Genesis 3:24) This desire for and promise of rest is a theme whose thread runs unbroken through Scripture, stitching its way along exile and covenant, flood and new beginnings, captivity and exodus, brokenness and restoration, waiting and fulfillment. Sounds like a familiar pattern? You may recognize it as our story too. The cry of of His people throughout millennia has been “Come, Thou long expected Jesus!” We’ve always known He is “the very Sabbath of our souls” (1).
Just as peace and joy are marks of a restored relationship (Romans 5), knowing our faith has found its rest in Him serves as a beautiful reminder of its fullness! We understand the magnitude of our brokenness is equally matched by the endless miles searching hearts will wander in pursuit of a respite from all that we crave. We have thirsty, tired, empty hearts that desire an end to striving.
So, what does this rest look like? Simply stated, it’s the recognition that our complete contentment and soul satisfaction is found in Him. Owen takes it one step further — “When faith rests in God and Christ with delight, desire, and satisfaction, it is called ‘love’.” (2) How beautiful is that?! Very often, love for God is spoken about in such ambiguous and impersonal terms. This quote gives wonderful clarity and specificity to an important aspect of our love for Him.
// Keeping it real // : when I know my desire for Him has become dim and cold, it’s helpful to ask if I’ve allowed my mind and heart to fall back into old patterns of pursuit and seeking in all the wrong places, rather than resting in the one “fitting and suitable” place. More often than not, the answer is “yes”.
That’s when it’s
so good to remember —
I have been made
complete in Him. (Col. 2:10)
The word “complete”
used here means “full“.
A heart experiencing
His fullness is a heart at rest.
One more thought (probably a whole other post for another day) : our redemption story — being made complete in Him — is one in which freedom from is inextricably bound up with freedom to. The book of Galatians is peppered with this language. (Check out Gal. 5:13). In all its amazing implications, our freedom from self striving becomes freedom to live a life of service. We’re free to actively “love one another, even as I have loved you” (John 13:34), to engage the gifts He has given each of us for the good of those whose paths intersect with ours. Roberts and Wilson, in their book “Echoes of Exodus” (3) (I happily recommend it to you), help us understand why this may seem counter-intuitive to many: “Our generation is confused as to the nature of true freedom. No matter how often we experience liberation from constraints, limitations, and oppression, we still find ourselves falling into new forms of bondage. We get free from boredom, and fall into slavery to distraction. We pursue liberty from prohibitions, and fall into slavery to addictions. We escape repression, and become enslaved to lust. We are released from isolation, and fall captive to peer pressure and the power of the on-line mob … true freedom is more complicated than it looks.” In what may appear paradoxical, His rest frees me for purposeful doing. This is true freedom. This is the cruciform life — the life of Jesus taking shape in us.
In his wonderful book “Keeping the Heart”, John Flavel (1657) gives us a glimpse into the day by day thought life of someone whose faith has found a place of rest and diligently seeks to guard it from all that might encroach upon or become ancillary to it.
“Father, I want to step aside more often to talk with You and my own heart; that I would not let every trifle divert me; that I would keep a more true and faithful account of my thoughts and affections; that I would seriously demand of my heart every evening, ‘Oh my heart, where have you been today and what has engaged your thoughts?'” (4)
As this prayer even more fully becomes the inclination of our hearts as well, let the answer be found, and without hesitation, in all that He is, our soul’s true rest and delight.
(1,4) John Flavel, “Keeping the Heart”
(2) John Owen, “Communion With God”
(3) Alastair J. Roberts & Andrew Wilson, “Echoes of Exodus: Tracing Themes of Redemption through Scripture”