Finding Rest

Even though they are not a part of the current challenge, there are hymns that I have written in previous years that have great stories, and this seemed like the appropriate platform to tell them. 

By the middle of 2015, I was thoroughly done with that year. I was experiencing a number of difficult trials. My life had no real direction. I was going in and out of depression. I hadn't written any music since the beginning of the year, and I didn't feel like I heard the voice of God in any matter. It was wilderness, to say the least. 

But then, sometime towards the end of summer, I was reading in Hebrews 3-4. The writer of Hebrews is attempting to prove that Jesus is greater than Moses, and he talks about God promising rest to His people. There is the immediate context that God was promising rest to His people in the Promised Land; but the passage goes on. In chapter 4, starting in verse 8: 

"For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest..." 

I started thinking about the different types of rest that are seen in scripture, and the different types of rest that God calls us to, and that He promises us. Rest is such a big topic in Scripture, and I think in this culture of constantly overworking ourselves, it is a topic we would like to avoid. Of course, there is a physical rest that we are created to need, but that's not the rest I wanted to focus on. In one of my lowest moments, I broke down, hard. As I was bitterly weeping, and I distinctly remember begging the Lord for mercy (from this moment came another song called How Merciful You Are To Break Me), I wrote out the following prayer, you will later see its influence on the hymn:

I will rest in You, O faithful one; no more do I want to labor, let me cease my striving - I am exhausted. I can add nothing to my own life by my works. No longer do I want to be in control. It does nothing but cause me pain, and steals glory from you. O, Lord, take control. So here I bring everything, I don't want to fight you anymore. Here's my heart - all my fears and my desires. My spirit is broken and torn, I know I cannot win this war. Can you take it all from me? Though my world is falling apart, and nothing makes sense, I will rest and rejoice in Your sovereignty. Purify me with Your fire, and take away everything that is not of You. Let your glory be the only passion in my heart. Empty me. And fill me with You. 

After a long process of a few months of chewing on this, I chose three to show up in this hymn - one per verse. I realized that truly what rest means is a peace with God. 

*Originally, there were like 8 verses, and when I went to record the song, it was well over 7 minutes. I chose three that told the story as a whole, so now there are three. I'll attach the full text at the bottom.* 

Find rest, O my soul
In the finished work of Christ
Lay all weapons down
Cease all your war and strife

Find rest, O my soul
In the Father's sovereign will
He will comfort you
Just wait before Him still

Find rest, O my soul
When at last you see His face
Free from sin and death
Surrounded by His grace

Verse 1: Peace with God through justification in Christ
Matthew 11:28-30; Psalm 62:1; Romans 5:1; John 19:30; Psalm 37:7

I am exhausted simply thinking of having to strive and labor to earn my own salvation; constantly trying to do good works, and simply hoping they will be good enough to save me. Attempting to follow every single letter of the law, even though it is impossible. Even the old sacrificial system is not capable: "For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." 

How liberating it is to know that our High Priest has offered Himself as our sacrifice. 

"And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God" - Hebrews 10:11-12

Every priest stood, for the sacrifices were never done; there was always one more to perform. But Christ, having absorbed every single drop of God's wrath with one sacrifice of Himself, sits down. He sits down, because the work of salvation is complete. He didn't yell "It is finished" because He thought it would make some really epic final words. No, it is finished is a declaration that there is no more work to be done on our salvation. And if Christ's work is sufficient, and indeed it is, there is no work left for you and I to do. All we bring to our salvation is the sin that made salvation necessary. So, we rest. We rest that our salvation is complete in Christ. It isn't Christ + good works, or Christ + (fill in the blank); it's grace alone through faith alone in Christ Jesus alone. 

Verse 2: Peace with God in His sovereignty in our sanctification
Matthew 6:25-34; Romans 8:28; Romans 12:2

This one is the hardest for me. By far. If I'm being honest, this verse is the reason the hymn was written. It's hard, it's not pretty, it hurts, it doesn't make sense, God rarely explains Himself in the moment. It's difficult to trust God with our life when it goes exact the opposite of what we wanted. Sure, I know that God's plan is good, pleasing and perfect, but it's against our nature to give that much control over to anyone. It's so easy to doubt when we have health issues, and financial issues, work issues, and relationship issues. How will everything work out? It seems like there is failure at every turn. What am I going to do about this? It's this time in the wilderness, when God is refining us, that's when it is hardest to rest. It's this time of refinement that led me to hate Psalm 37:4 for long periods of time. It's this time that led me to doubt the goodness of God; that led me to feel abandoned. I found a bit of reprieve when I realized I was in good company with some Old Testament writers. There are some really depressing Psalms, and Isaiah gets really dark at times: 

The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me. - Isaiah 49:14

For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. - Psalm 88:3

I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God. - Psalm 69:3

So yeah. Clearly I am not the first one to ever struggle with these things. But these dark scriptures don't stay there. Isaiah responds to verse 14 with this word from God: 

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands" - Isaiah 49:15-16

Even if a nursing mother could abandon her child, God will not abandon us. He says He has engraved us on the palms of His hand. Isaiah continues in chapter 50 with another great encouragement, and one that really spoke to me. 

Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. - Isaiah 50:10

So, Christian, rest in God's sovereignty. When there is no light - rest. When God is silent - rest. When God is refining you - rest. God's plan is perfect. If we are going to trust Him to save us for eternity, how can we not but trust Him with every aspect of our life? 

And while it isn't Scripture, and there is only a limited application, I've always felt that this quote from Sam in the Lord of the Rings was applicable to Christian life not always knowing the will of God, and how things would work out: 

It's like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn't want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it's only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it'll shine out the clearer. - Samwise Gamgee, The Two Towers

Verse 3: Peace with God in Glorification in Heaven
Hebrews 4:9-11; Revelation 21:1-5; 2 Corinthians 5:8

I obviously have the least experience with this one. I've been justified, I am actively being sanctified, but glorification is not yet. But this is the rest the writer of Hebrews was ultimately pointing to in chapter 4. 

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest. 

How glorious. Eternal rest. Perfect peace with God. There isn't much more to elaborate on here, for then, we will rest. There is no decision to rest. We simply will. For we will be present with the Lord, and He will be sufficient for eternity. Come, Lord Jesus. 

In Conclusion: All 8 of the original verses

Find rest, O my soul
I
n the finished work of Christ
Lay all weapons down
Cease all your war and strife

Take rest, O my soul
All your labors are in vain
The cross is enough
Your ransom has been paid

Find rest, O my soul
In the Father's sovereign will
He will comfort you
Just wait before Him still

Take rest, O my soul
Take your gaze not off of Christ
Always look to Him
He is your joy and prize

Although in these trials
Night and darkness seem to win
Away He takes of you
Replacing you with Him

Find rest, O my soul
He hides you in His wing
In love He will lead
For your good in everything

Find rest, O my soul
When at last you see His face
Free from sin and death
Surrounded by his grace

My soul, then at last
Stand complete before the throne
My soul, forever rest
He led you safely home