Barriers to Rest

My formal studies are in a holding pattern. But from my desk this morning, I’ve enjoyed sipping coffee while watching a rabbit at water’s edge. Our rainfall generously continues and the creek swiftly flows. The gentle sound of nature whispers rest

Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength…It is wisdom to take occasional furlough. In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing lessCharles Spurgeon wisely penned. 

We have many commands the Lord has given for the home, family, church, and community. It is admirable to fulfill His expectations; as Christian women, we are busy. But God has also called us to rest. Cluttered calendars and scattered thoughts affect our bodies, buffer our relationships, and form barriers to rest

The subject of rest is throughout the Bible, evidence of its importance. After the fall in Genesis 3:17-19, refreshment becomes a necessary response to work. Experiencing deep rest requires obedience, thinking on things that are good, true, and beautiful. See Genesis 3:17-23; Philippians 4:8.

Rest goes beyond the physical; barriers to rest begin in the mind. Rooted in fear, worry, anxiety, and dread, these obstacles become a vicious cycle. Social media’s peer pressure promotes envious fear- the fear of missing out. Envy’s comparison calls us to be more and do more, to measure up, and women are often ashamed to admit the fault lines in a heart of covetousness. Comparison drives our calendars and consumes our energy. And yet, Tim Keller wisely writes, 

The incomplete joys of this world will never satisfy the human heart.

Equally important to note, seeking rest in earthly possessions and activities reveals a tendency to hold people in awe. We are controlled and mastered by them instead of resting in the contentment God alone provides. See Genesis 26:14, Genesis 30:1; Galatians 5:17-21; Colossians 3:22-23; Psalm 37:7-16; Romans 13:14; Hebrews 4:1-13; Psalm 62:1-5; Psalm 33:8.

In our age of discontentment, being busy demands our daily attention, failing to accomplish much of what is important. Our motivations and our self-imposed checklists need not to paramount what God would have for us. The self-willed, restless lifestyle does not honor God. An idol is anything more important to you than God. Anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, states Keller. In other words, whatever controls us is our God. See 1 Timothy 6:6-8; Luke 10:41-42; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 20:8-11; Philippians 4:13; Colossians 3:1-4.

Ungodly fear motivates us to commit other sins. Whether in the lives of Abraham, Sarah, Moses, or Saul, scripture clearly indicates fear. As a matter of fact, great heroes of the Bible experienced fear and suffered consequences. In Augustine’s Confessions, he writes, For you have made us for yourself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in you. When we have our eyes on what might be instead of what is true, we fail to focus on God’s love and care. Godly focus stills the heart. See Genesis 15:1-3; 1 Samuel 15:24; Exodus 3:11, Exodus 4:1, Exodus 4:11-13; 1 Samuel 13:11-13.

Some of us are more inclined to habitual, destructive fear. Personal history might play a part, but human experience of fear isn’t anything new. We see this common heritage in biblical characters (with fear’s origination in the fall). Anxiety and worry are common, yet unhelpful responses do not recognize God’s sovereign care. Thinking on what we know is real and true, we can trust God’s provision and protection. See Matthew 6:34; Psalm 33:13-19, Psalm 121:3-8, Psalm 3:1-6, Psalm 63:6-8, Isaiah 43:18-19, Joshua 1:9.

In The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges warns about the traps leading our hearts to focus on secondary issues. We can experience the fullness of joy which Christ has promised to those who walk in obedience. The question becomes, Do we believe those promises? Bridges argues, We need to brace ourselves up and to realize that we are responsible for thoughts, attitudes, and actions. Faith girded with steadfastness and perseverance develops self-control. If we are filling our days and not advancing in our relationship with God, not moving forward in accomplishing His purposes, we need to look at the struggle. See Psalm 42:1, Psalm 63:1.

Oftentimes, the ramifications of having lived in the grips of envy, anxiety, worry, and dread leads to discouragement and results in disobedience. Nonetheless, the biblical counseling model for fear begins with James 1:2-4, and the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to change us. See James 1:2-4; Psalm 64:1; 2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 11; Ephesians 4:22-31; Colossians 3:8-9; Ephesians 6:11; Colossians 3:10-14.

When seeking rest from the suffering of adversity’s fatigue, God’s attributes consistently remind us of his grace, mercy, and patience. Our study of His character has potential to change our view of God, Scripture, self, and others. A.W. Tozer writes What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us…For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he is in his deep heart conceives God to be like. 

Why is the study of God important? Studying the attributes of God will allow us to knowmore about Him. What are the attributes of God? In Knowledge of the Holy, Tozer writes, An attribute of God is whatever God has in any way revealed as being true of Himself…An attribute, then, is a part of God. It is how God is, and as far as the reasoning mind can go, we may say that it is what God is, though…exactly what He is He cannot tell us. Of what God is conscious when He is conscious when He is conscious of self, only He knows. Only to an equal could God communicate the mystery of His Godhead; and to think of God as having an equal is to fall into intellectual absurdity. Knowing the truth of God produces rest. See Psalm 46:8-11; 2 Corinthians 12:9, 2 Corinthians 4:17-18; Psalm 139:6, 17-18; Romans 11:33-34; 1 Corinthians 2:1.

Whether our barrier to rest is envy, anxiety, worry, or suffering, one of the best things we can do for rest is to study His attributes and character. How do we appropriately study the attributes of God? The attributes are in harmony with one another, complementing and never in conflict. No attribute is superior or inferior to any other. Being both just and loving demonstrates God’s simplicity. We are to recognize that God’s attributes are all infinite; they are complete (not maturing or changing). They have always and will exist completely. This demonstrates His unity. Our God receives glory when his children study Him (trusting the Scriptures for who He is), casting on Him all fear, doubt, and cares. See 1 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Peter 1:2-3; Jeremiah 9:23-24; Isaiah 41:10; Job 42:1-6.

Is there ever a time we should be afraid? Fear promotes a healthy respect for real danger and can also result in awesome reverence for God. Fear of God is the believer’s correct response to God’s power, majesty and mercy. In light of the Scriptures, repentance, confession, and genuine belief lead to fearing the Lord rightly. Moreover, healthy fear of God includes emotions, attitudes, and actions. See Job 41:33; Ecclesiastes 12:13; Proverbs 1:7; Psalm 119:120; Proverbs 9:10; Proverbs 19:23; Psalm 111:10.

Faith is believing the Word of God and acting upon it. Redirecting our faith (in self and others) to faith in God produces thankfulness, hope, and trust. For the Christian, belief followed by right praying, right thinking, and wise choices, cultivates rest. See Isaiah 45:5-7; Romans 12:2; 1 Peter 3:14 & 15; Matthew 6:25-32; Proverbs 1:33; 1 Peter 5:7.

Professor Alan Noble of Oklahoma Baptist University writes: Time can come to be seen as the currency of our lives, and with whatever we purchase with that coinage, we define and redeem our existence…By resting and refusing to participate in the rat race, we act in faith that God will care for us and that this race is no path to salvation. We can enter rest when our peace is Jesus Christ who is the means and the end. Be still and know. See Psalm 55:22; 1 John 4:18; Philippians 4:6-9; Galatians 5:23-24; 2 Timothy 1:7; Matthew 11:29-30.

For further study: 

A reading of 1 Samuel 1, Jeremiah 21:224-27, and Psalm 13, Matthew 6:26-33

Disruptive Witness – Speaking Truth in a Distracted Age by Alan Noble

The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges

Our Glorious God – The Attributes of God by A.W. Pink, a Ten Week Bible Study Course by Betty Thomas

None Like Him by Jen Wilkin

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