For as long, then, as that promise of resting in him pulls us on to God's goal for us, we need to be careful that we're not disqualified. We received the same promises as those people in the wilderness, but the promises didn't do them a bit of good because they didn't receive the promises with faith. If we believe, though, we'll experience that state of resting. But not if we don't have faith. Remember that God said,
Exasperated, I vowed,
"They'll never get where they're going,
never be able to sit down and rest."
God made that vow, even though he'd finished his part before the foundation of the world. Somewhere it's written, "God rested the seventh day, having completed his work," but in this other text he says, "They'll never be able to sit down and rest." So this promise has not yet been fulfilled. Those earlier ones never did get to the place of rest because they were disobedient. God keeps renewing the promise and setting the date as today, just as he did in David's psalm, centuries later than the original invitation:
Today, please listen,
don't turn a deaf ear . . .
And so this is still a live promise. It wasn't canceled at the time of Joshua; otherwise, God wouldn't keep renewing the appointment for "today." The promise of "arrival" and "rest" is still there for God's people. God himself is at rest. And at the end of the journey we'll surely rest with God.
I will tell you what a rest sure sounds good doesn’t it?
What kind of rest do you think the author of Hebrews may be talking about here? I don’t think it’s taking a nap. I think he’s talking about something qualitatively different.
It’s the kind of rest that we all need right now.
For almost a year, many people have been living with a low level of constant anxiety. Living life during a global pandemic is hard. Every aspect of our normal, daily lives is difficult. There is nothing that is just, easy. Everywhere you go you have to wear a mask. Which means that you have to remember your mask. I can barely remember my wallet, keys, and phone! Every interaction you have makes you think about how close do you stand, don’t shake hands, fist or elbow bump, no hugging, keep distant, and the list goes on.
Everything is different.
Many people are grieving losses. Big losses like the loss of loved ones that they couldn’t properly grieve through a funeral. Family and friends who died with strangers around them. To small losses like no graduation or proms. There is a collective sense of grief. All of us feel it in some way.
This drip, drip, drip of anxiety and grief that is always in the background is exhausting. Most of the people in my life just sort of feel tired. There is screen exhaustion, Zoom exhaustion, TV exhaustion, isolation exhaustion, all the exhaustion. We are a tired humanity.
Perhaps I’m simply projecting. But, I am tired. All these things are true of me. I am tired. There have been seasons where I haven’t slept well because the worry was on the surface. There have been seasons where I have eaten my emotions or argued my emotions. I have hurt people and lost a friend or two as a result.
But, here’s the thing, we don’t have stay in this place.
God is inviting us into “Today.” Today we can experience rest. This rest is rooted in the reality that God loves us and cares for us. This rest is grounded in trust. What is this trust? Trust that God through his people will care for us right here, today, in this moment.
The promise of rest is not for tomorrow. It is for today.
In the midst of all this I have experienced this rest. I have had seasons where I have not been tired. There have been days and weeks where I felt rested and energized. As I think about the difference between those times and the times where the worry and anxiety have ruled the day it is because I have been willing to trust God through the people around me. These were the seasons where I was willing to open myself up to the people that most represent the living God in my life.
As I begin to understand this more deeply I am finding that it requires an intentionality on my part to open myself fully to those around me. Even though I trust them and know that they care for me, it is easier to not allow them in.
Sometimes I think that we believe that faith is expressed as some sort of intellectual ascent in the direction of an unseen divine being. Faith in the Trinity is expressed by embracing the body of Christ as our family.
The rest that the author of Hebrews talks about is experienced through faith. This is not a faith that is passive in the unseen. It is a faith that the people of God as the body of God will embrace us and care for us and love us.
In some sense it is really easy to trust an invisible God. That doesn’t cost us anything. But, trusting the body of Christ as Christ’s ambassadors? That’s a different story. But, that is where we must go to find this rest. We must at some point set our ego and self-centeredness aside to trust that others care for and love us. When we get to that point, we are able to enter into the rest.