Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Last week, Pastor Greg wrote a very encouraging devotion for us centering on the theme of living in this world as an elect exile and sojourner. He also expressed our need for physical, emotional, and spiritual rest. He called us to hope in the future rest that we will have for eternity in Christ’s Kingdom and seek the rest that can be found here and now in our Savior who, as he put it, “can calm the storm.”
Today, I desire to write to you along this same theme – of finding rest. To be honest, there have been moments during these past few months where I have been restless. I have struggled with the emotions Pastor Greg wrote about, with sadness, frustration, anger, and fear. This world is broken and this brokenness continues to spiral downward. There have been many nights where it can be hard to sleep, where my mind races thinking about the effects of this virus on my family, on our church, on our jobs. Add to this the troubling and seemingly unsolvable racial division in this country that has become exacerbated this past month.
This time has also been characterized by loss and grief. The virus has caused a tragic amount of death in this country and in this world. Moreover, so many close to me have seen dear friends, parents, and grandparents die (all unrelated to Covid-19). My heart has ached for my friends who are grieving after losing their people and many tears have been shed by them and by me. Death and sickness is all around us.
Such is life in a fallen world that is ravaged by the effects of sin. Disease and death, with their devastating repercussions, are a part of human existence this side of Eden. But this was not always the case. In the Garden there was a perpetual rest. You see, after each day of Creation there was a refrain that was repeated after detailing what was made that day. We see this first at the end of Genesis 1:5. “And there was evening and there was morning, one day.” Then again in verse 8, “And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.” This pattern is followed again in verses 13, 19, 23, 31. But something changes when Moses finishes his creation account. In Genesis 2:2-3 we read, “2 By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” Notice what Moses left out. There is no refrain: there was evening and there was morning, a seventh day. Moses just writes that on day 7 God completed His work of creation, He rested from His work, and then He blessed the 7th day and made it holy. As James Montgomery Boice puts it, “God, having completed his work of creation, rests, as if to say, “This is the destiny of those who are my people; to rest as I rest, to rest in me.” (emphasis added). At that moment in history, everything that God had made was very good. All of creation was experiencing perfect existence and was perfectly fulfilling the purpose for which it had been made. MacArthur puts it this way, “That one day, that seventh day inaugurated some period of time in which God delighted in a world that sparkled with pure life and a world which enjoyed the presence of God and a man and his wife in open fellowship with their Creator. Sin and its resulting curse were still unknown. There was no more creation work to do and there was no work of preserving all of this because it wasn’t prone to decay. And so we could say that on day seven God entered into a permanent state of rest, at least permanent until sin.” Sadly, as Johnny Mac points out, this all came to an end when sin entered the world through Adam’s fall. Every creature that God had made, and all creation, became marred by the effects of sin. And so because of the curse of sin, the world became filled with restlessness.
My desire today is to point you to the still waters of comfort that God has brought me to, as I have struggled with restlessness during this time. As we are striving by faith in Christ to enter into that sabbath rest of God’s Kingdom, I want to show you even as we continue to experience and engage in life in this fallen world a source of peace. I wish to remind you of a wonderful truth found in some beautiful verses in Psalm 56.
As we can see if we read the title to this Psalm, it was written when David was fleeing from Saul to the land of the Philistines where he was seized at Gath (1 Samuel 21:10-15). As David is pursued by enemies at home and surrounded by enemies abroad he was trampled and attacked (vs 1-2). He is in anguish and fear. But, he finds confidence and comfort in trusting God (vs 3). God is his protector against his enemies. David looks at his enemies who are surrounding him and then he looks at his all-powerful God and he declares, “What can flesh do to me?” (vs 4). They can do much to hurt David (vs 5-7) but they cannot defeat him.
What I want to point out to you is that not only is God a Protector with immeasurable power, He is a Protector with immense care. Look at verse 8, “8 You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (ESV) Stop and think about these truths. Every toss and turn that you have at night; God counts every one. This is how intimately your God knows you and me. He takes an account in His book of our restlessness, even when we are sleeping!
See also how tender our God cares for us as we are grieving. He adds up every single tear that drops from our eyes and places them in His bottle. Spurgeon comments, “How condescending is the Lord! How exact his knowledge of us! How generous his estimations! How tender his regard!”
Dear saints, if you are struggling as I am with restlessness, if you are fighting against temptation to be anxious, if you have spent many of these nights tossing and turning and have cried tears upon tears, find comfort in the truth that God knows. He intimately knows you and everything that you are going through. When you arrive at Heaven’s shores, when you finally enter into true and unending rest in His presence, He will show you His record of all your sleeplessness nights, He will show you the bottle of all your tears, and you shall see fully how mindful the God of the Universe was of you. How sweet is the comfort of the Prince of Peace! As Peter writes, “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).