What's weird about this rest that we find in Christ, or anything else we find in Him, really, is that we can never truly own it. We must embrace it. We must enjoy it. But we can never fully claim it or it disappears. I was thinking about this in terms of authority not that long ago, but it's really true about anything God decides to do in our lives, every gift He gives us. We can never own it.
The minute we make it ours, it isn't His any more.
I think this is where it's so easy for most of us to get off-track. I know that's been the case for me for a very long time, and to a degree, it still is. God speaks these things into our lives and we want them so desperately to be true. We want the peace. We want the rest. We want the authority. We want the approval. Whatever it is God speaks into us, whatever it is He gives us, it's usually something we've been longing for. And now, it's ours.
It's easy to take off with that. It's easy to grab the gift of God and try to run. Like when you feel like you want to do this very big thing and God finally says yes, and you're excited because you actually get to do it. But all too quickly, you start to see the big thing and you start to see yourself doing it but you forget that it was God who gave you the opportunity to do it at all. It's become your thing. When it was only meant to be His thing.
It matters because when it becomes my thing, I think it's in me to do it. I think it hinges on me whether this thing lives or dies, succeeds or fails. I start to rely on the strength and authority that I have to get it done, and I forget that all of my strength and all of my authority comes from God. The same is true about peace or rest. The minute I think that I have peace or rest, that it is mine, I'm tempted to become lazy and complacent. Because I have forgotten that peace and rest are a gift. They are God's grace to give, not anything I am entitled to have.
That's why so much of what we do fails, I think. It's because we take the gift and leave the Giver. We embrace what we've been given but forget that it's been given at all. We start to think it begins and ends with us, that it's for our goodness that we have such a thing. It leads to arrogance, to pride. It leads to a dependence on what we have and who we are and it's too easy to forget that what we have is a Giver and who we are is a gift.
And that's when we start to lose it. We lose our peace and rest because it's suddenly become up to us to keep it. We've put that burden on ourselves by thinking it is ours. Now, we have to labor to keep our rest...and we can't do both. We cannot both labor and rest. We cannot fight for peace. The two just butt heads in our hearts. Or we lose our authority because it becomes the only thing that ever affirmed itself. We try to use our authority to say that we have authority, but if our authority is coming into question, our word is not enough. And it slips away....
But when we remember that God is the Giver and that everything we have comes from Him, we remember it's not up to us to keep it; it's only up to us to receive it. As long as He keeps giving, it will be there. As long as we keep asking, He will answer. The very peace, the very rest, the very authority, the very whatever that it is we want to hold onto drives us back to God because we know He's the only way it's possible. He's the only reason it exists. And if He is the reason it exists, He is also the reason we have it. And if He is the reason we have it, it is because there is something He wants to do with it. We have to keep asking Him for that reason, in the same breath we keep thanking Him for the gift.
I realize this has been kind of complicated, more than it needs to be. We're talking about two very different things here - peace and rest, and authority and ability. But more broadly than that, we're talking about every good gift of God, every single thing He is doing in you and me. We're talking about whatever it is our hearts have longed for that God has seen fit to provide, and how easy it is for us to lose those things when we forget what a gift they truly are. That's the point. I'm thinking of it in terms of authority because I have been thinking about that for awhile. I'm thinking about it in terms of rest because that's where yesterday's story leads me to start thinking. Maybe you're thinking about it in different terms, whatever it is that God is speaking into your life. Can you remember that He gave it to you?
God is truly pouring His blessings out on me lately and it's beautiful and incredible and overwhelming and a little intimidating all at the same time. Because I know me. I know how easy it is for me to forget what a gift these things really are. Things like hope and faith. Things like peace and rest. Things like strength and mercy. Things like yes and no. Things like this very breath I am taking right now. And I've been kind of lost, pulled back and forth between remembering it is a gift and thinking it's up to me to hold onto it.
But when I remember it's a gift, I am drawn to the Giver, and I hold it anew in my heart and my hands. And I can't help but smile amidst it all. Amidst the trials and troubles that sent me looking for these things in the first place. Amidst the things of this world that sent me running to God. And now, amidst the incredible gifts of God that keep drawing me back to Him, knowing it is only because He gives that I can ever receive.