“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
– Matthew 11:28-30
How many times have you heard the refrain, “God’s not answering my prayers”, or “I can’t hear Him”? Too often we’re simply not paying enough attention: we love to hear the sound of our own voices, after all. And if we don’t, there are plenty of louder people all around us, each with their own viewpoints on a subject, their own egos demanding to be heard. The world is a loud and belligerent place, lacking the subtlety of the Kingdom: there, a whisper is worth a thousand shouts.
Our current identity in Christ is the source of our deliverance, not some voice from on high sounding suspiciously like Marlon Brando, Charlton Heston (or, latterly, Morgan Freeman). Let’s make this very clear—while the story of Superman contains within it any number of messianic metaphors and Christ allegories, Superman is not Jesus…and the Father is not a superhero. He’s not bound and determined to swoop down from the clouds and sweep us off our feet and out of the circumstances that are trying us, and if that’s more or less what we’re expecting when we pray over our situation, then we may just be setting ourselves up for a nasty disappointment.
As we dwell upon Christ, allowing thoughts of our identity in Him to develop, and considering how our affect, our persona, may be affected and transformed by that transformed identity, the situation we find ourselves in recedes in importance. We use it to lever ourselves to a new understanding of Christ, climbing the obstacle to stand atop it and obtain a fresh perspective. When that’s accomplished, the obstacle simply doesn’t seem as much of a problem as before. Why? Because it’s not in our way any longer. We’ve climbed it, and can see beyond it to what lies ahead.
Stepping back into God and the Spirit is vital: we have to learn to listen to the quiet voices, to sink into His rest, to simply pay attention. In the secret places of the Spirit, places of meditation and deep thought, wisdom can be developed. Wisdom is more than just experience and knowledge obtained—it’s the perspective that allows us to determine when to apply that knowledge and experience. That perspective cannot be obtained when we’re unfocused, scattered and closed down. It requires a quiet place of reflection, a spirit of transcendence and joy…and patience.
Everything negative can be overcome once we focus on the overwhelming positivity of the Lord. We have Christ within us, and we are within Him, and we’re intended to work constantly to make the two images gradually become one: to become so much like Christ that we can no longer tell the difference.
Openness and calm radiates goodwill and strength. A strong, powerful and patient heart is the best placed to listen to the words being spoken over us in the Spirit…to really listen. In the old days, servants would refer to their service as ‘attending’: they would be there, night and day, to attend to everything that they were required to do, never far from their masters, trained to discern when it was that they were being called as opposed to another servant, and to know exactly what to do once the call went out. Just as a mother instinctively wakes when her baby stirs, so the true listener in Christ is alert to the tiniest vibration, reclining in a relaxed posture of rest in the Spirit.
As you become more and more acclimatised to living in rest, you’ll find the Lord pointing out odd little things during your day. People as they pass in the street will take on a greater significance as God whispers to you about their lives, or worship will take on an added resonance because God has pointed to one note, one instrument, one word in the lyric which means something for Him and for you today. Problems become opportunities in disguise, as you begin to hear what God has been saying all along…all along, while we were distracted and thinking about something else. God’s never distracted, and he’s always listening to us, to the people around us, the hidden music in our lives: he’s always attending.
In the hurly burly of our modern lives, there are many calls upon our time, and even more calls upon our attention. Devices ping and light up in our bags, pockets and hands, telling us about this event, that call, this message, that idea being discussed across the world. The global village has never been this huge before, or this connected to itself: we can read the idle thoughts of a teenager in Gaza at the same time as a movie star in Hollywood, a newspaper reporter in Africa or a politician in Australia. Photos taken half a world away are suddenly within our grasp minutes after being taken. There’s so much out there to split our focus, to make life more chaotic and scattered, that the ability to step back into a place of rest has never been more necessary, or more important to us as people.
Seek to create a place of your own, a place of stillness: a clearing in the woods, where you can feel, think, relax and see things clearly. Above all, a place where you can relate to God, discover what He means for you and what His voice sounds like in the still places of your heart. Take joy in making that place for yourself. It can be difficult at first to find the time or the inclination—so many other things can seem so much more important. They’re really not. When we attend to God, we discern His voice above all other sounds. It moves us, excites us and draws us into a more full encounter in His presence. In this place, in our clearing in the woods, it’s the easiest thing in the world to hear His voice.
It’s a place where you can realign yourself after a day of adversity or strife. Where you can find positivity when surrounded by the negative. Where you can achieve a perspective impossible to find in the world. It’s a little piece of Heaven on earth. Try it and see!
For more teaching on rest and intentional living with the Lord, check out the journal Living in Dependency & Wonder. Living in Dependency & Wonder focuses on living life as a much loved child and the practice of making quiet time to be alone with the Father. Living in Dependency & Wonder is available at Brilliant Book House, be sure to check it out!