Striving. A Bad Thing?

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.  Hebrews 4:11

I got a note several weeks ago from someone who I’ve grown to care about very much.  She said, ‘Christine, please pray for me.  I’m starting to doubt the love of God.’  She was in very difficult times, and had been for a while, and she was tired of fighting for the faith. Her saving act was to reach out to another believer, admit her struggle, and ask to be reminded of what was true.  I contend that if she had kept her crisis of faith private, she would be further away from Jesus today.

The word ‘striving’ can be associated with something bad but it depends on what I’m striving for.  Trying to earn God’s favor, trying to solve my own problems, trying to make God love me; these are all useless reasons to strive.  But striving to enter the rest God promises?  Absolutely necessary.

Rest in God is the same as peace, trust, and wholehearted belief.  When I became God’s child, I didn’t enter into complete rest.  About my eternal destiny, yes, but about each of God’s promises, no.  I didn’t even know them yet.  Rest is attained by choosing to believe God – one day at a time and one promise at a time.  It is work.  It is a fight.  It takes intentional effort.  To be at rest, I must fight every natural instinct within myself to trust what I see and what logic begs to prove over what God says.  I must face my own unbelief head on and compare it to the outrageous promises of a Father who loves in such a way that I can’t fathom.  His love is the stuff of fairy tales and every promise is completely outside of human experience.

I strive for rest by prayer, meditation, and study.  It requires commitment, personal grit, and a willingness to be humble about my unbelief in the midst of discouragement. Pain begs to corrupt my faith and that is why living in community is so important.  I must have a few to whom I can say (as the letter to me said), ‘Pray for me. I’m at risk of unbelief.’

I guard my own heart and my own faith like I guard the life of a newborn child.  I know how fragile it is, how easily it can be broken.  I need to be the watchman on my wall for no other reason than  I have an enemy who seeks, relentlessly, to cause a breach in my ability to trust God.  He is the rest-thief.

I make this distinction for any of us who might fear falling away from the faith.  I cannot fall away from grace if I am His child.  I am kept by the power of God.  I will enter my promised rest in eternity, unlike the Israelites who never saw the Promised Land.  But I can fall away from the rest God offers while I’m making my way home.  My unbelief, carved out by turning a blind eye to the doubts that creep in one at a time, takes over my internal landscape until it resembles a barren wilderness.  And it’s needless.  Paradise, the kingdom, is here now.  It’s to seize my heart and define my joy but I must be willing to battle my own flesh and the devil for it.  Striving for rest is every day’s agenda.

You told me, Lord. The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy.  He’s the rest thief.  With the sword of Your Word, I defend my faith.  Amen

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