There are just some days when I find myself unable to move forward. Whether it is pure exhaustion from a long week or feeling trapped by endless circling of the mind. Let’s be honest with… More
Some of the most peaceful and tranquil hours of the day are found in the moments before the sun rises. These hours are full of promise. The world has not awoken. The hustle and bustle of the day have not begun. With the rising of the sun darkness is chased away and the light begins to emerge. It is a transition from the darkness of night to light of day and it is not without struggle. In the predawn it is difficult to see, stumbling over what our eyes can not fully comprehend.
Our spiritual journey is full of these kinds of transitions from darkness to light…from death to new life. In part, it is because our knowledge is partial and incomplete (we cannot see the whole picture). There are many other reasons we remain in the darkness–disobedience and a lack of trust–ranking high on the list. But the reasons do not matter as much as the choice to step into the light.
Recently, I have experienced this transition from darkness into light. A transition of sorts from death into new life as I had the privilege to walk along side a close family member battling cancer. It is one of the most painful experiences to watch a loved one suffer and feel so helpless to bring relief. Yet, I cannot take this transition away, nor should I. The dawning of a new day requires that we walk through the predawn transition. It can be a depressing and somber walk even if you have the hope of morning coming. At times it is only the prayers of another that carry you through. The interceding of those who have gone before you. Those who have first hand experience that “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
The physical birth of new life mirrors this transition of the physical death to the resurrected eternal life in heaven. For those of you who have giving birth, you know all to well that the transition period of labor is the hardest. It is the time right before the baby is born. Hospice nurses say that the transitioning from this life into the next is ironically similar to the painful experience women endure before bringing new life into this world. Some pass through it with minimal struggle, but the majority labor through it. Even though we can coach people to relax and “let go” our flesh is often reluctant to let new life be birthed.
No matter how much we try and stop it there is pain in transition. The process of dying to ourselves requires a relinquishing of control and it is often just as painful for those who are watching. Whether you are coaching your wife through the labor process or reassuring your dying loved one… there will be pain in the transition, but the process is invaluable all the more. What you are learning–even though you are not fully comprehending it at–rest assured there will be fruit in the future. So as you journey through the transitions of life, whether it is the life of Christ being birthed within you or the interceding on the behalf of another, you can be confident of this…
“That He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ” Philippians 1:6
I find that even when I am exhausted and in desperate need of rest… it is the rest I fight the most. As a parent I saw all three of my kids go through the same internal struggle. Complete exhaustion, melting down from fatigue they would fight until there was nothing left to give. The very thing that would restore them became an obstacle to them. As adults we know how sleep can restore and replenish, but to a child it represents one thing: It’s time to let go and lay down.
The same is still true for this child of the King. My body is all to familiar with the signs and symptoms of fatigue. I still struggle with letting go and laying down. Of course I have progressed in some areas. I love to sleep, just ask my husband. But the call to abide is a difficult journey of laying down and letting go. The promise is that when we rest in the work of Christ living water will spring up from within and there will be rest for the weary.
The first step is to physically rest. Once we have slowed down enough to take notice of those internal promptings we began to see that the real struggle lies within the soul. When life begins to feel out of control like a merry go round spinning faster and faster with ever turn…the natural response is to hold on tighter. When confusion begins to mask reality…the natural response is to think rationally. And when the walls begin to cave in around you…the natural response is to work harder at picking up the pieces. The most natural, the most rationale, and the most well worn paths of our soul are often in opposition to the very REST God is offering us.
But the work of the cross in our lives leads us to what is un-natural. To what is super-natural.. the transformed life. When we are yoked with Him we are invited to cease struggling and to stop fighting what our souls desperately need and desire. To rest…to be still…and to know that God is still God even in the midst of chaos and uncertainty. To lay down and let go so we may truly find the rest our souls need.
The destination is not always the most important thing of the journey. Throughout my seminary education, a mentor and friend would periodically remind me of this concept. In times of discouragement and feelings of inadequacy she would speak the following words over me. “Amanda, trust the process.” Two of my favorite words–trust and process. For a “doer” these words are an exercise in self-control and discipline. They require patience and the release of control. In their fullness these words require rest. Rest from always trying to figure things out. Rest from expending copious amounts of energy that only produce frustration. Rest from trying to be what only God can be. Trusting the process means abandoning the notion that it is I who possess salvation.
When Jesus Christ invites us into His eternal union with the Father and Holy Spirit it is not an invitation of participation where we bring what we have to offer. It is not an invitation to give of our best in order that it might add something to benefit the process of transformation. Unlike any earthly invitation, Jesus is inviting us to let go. His invitation is an invite to rest. Rest from trying to be what only God can be. God must have known that when He placed eternity in the hearts of men they would strive on their own accords to reach that destiny. His life-giving words point us to the remedy of such foolishness:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.”
The journey to Christ-likeness is a journey of rest and I am beginning to trust the process. By the end of seminary those words spoken over me began to sink deep into my heart. The process became invaluable to the destination. With each step I was being led. The closer I came to the fulfillment of what God was calling me to the more I began to see that it was Him who strengthened me. What was once doubt and confusion surrounding the “how” slowly became a trust in the One who was leading the process.
The journey continues…and surprisingly my soul finds comfort in the words of the psalmist, “My salvation and my honor depend on God.” For I do not bring anything of value to the journey, but my submission to be led. And so, I sing these words as a declaration just as David did:
“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken…
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone, my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.”
Psalm 62: 1-2, 5-6
I will trust the process.
The days that follow any leap of faith seem to be the hardest. They are tested and tried with all kinds of temptations and potential derailments. They often call into question my ability to hear God’s voice. “Is this the direction I am to be going?” The journey does not lack opportunities to doubt, but it does provide opportunities to choose.
As we enter into the holiest of weeks in the Christian Year it seems appropriate to look at the cross in a deeper way. Not only did Jesus take my sin upon Himself, He gave back to me one of the most precious of gifts God gave to His original creation–the freedom to choose.
When Adam and Eve choose self-knowledge over trusting God they invited sin into their lives. What they didn’t consider was the weight of consequence such an action would bring. The entrance of sin into the world paralyzes humanity’s ability to choose life. But the story does not end there. Easter morning, as the sun rises, believers from all around will come together and celebrate the Risen Son. Songs of deliverance from the lips of the redeemed will testify that Jesus Christ is King and that He has indeed trampled over death…
For He has canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. Colossians 2:14-15 (NLT)
No longer do we wear the shame of sin! No longer are we slaves to sin! Our journeys continue, but now we have a response of victory. We have been given the gift to choose life over death. So when those nagging doubts, fears, and temptations that often plaque our journey to holiness surface, let us choose to listen to the voice of God. Let us choose to finish the journey that He has set before us… because the cross has brought us victory.
“I have started the journey, and I must finish it.”
The beginning of transition is always a daunting place to be. It is filled with expectation and promise. Will I succeed in following through? Will I make it to other side? Will my fears overtake me before I see the fulfillment? If you are anything like me… until a new normal is established the unknown and unrest is a place of familiarity. Until God brings forth new life and a new normal we are left to accept the feelings of anxiety that often come with times of transition. A place of suspense and incompleteness. Yet, this is the place where He works. He awakens our souls like a tender shoot bursting forth…reaching out for the source of life.
Today, is an invitation to listen. To listen for His voice as He begins to awaken our soul to new life. As we slowly move outside of our comfort zones, what was once unknown and frightening will become the new normal--a place of quiet rest where you and Jesus will communion in uninterrupted abiding.
Transition from one place to another can be filled with fear…but it does not have to be. The Lord’s invitation is to “Come to Him” in the midst of transition. His promise is that “perfect love cast out all fear.” Whether it is the fears associated with moving from one town to another, from an old job to a new one, or ultimately from our earthly bodies to our resurrected body. His promise is always the same–His presence forever. We can face mountains in our lives because He is with us.
“Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much fruit. However, apart from Me you can do nothing.”