Is it just me, or have we made striving a virtue? We admire those who overachieve, who rise above expectations because of sweat and diligence. It seems like the harder a person pushes toward perfectionism, the more she’s admired. We call it a good work ethic.
We’ve taken a good thing–hard work–and warped it into over-work. Not only is this exhausting, but it’s futile. We’re placing our trust in the idea that perfection is possible if we try hard enough. This isn’t true in careers, and it certainly isn’t true in our spiritual lives. We will never reach heaven by working a bit harder than we did last year, a little harder than our neighbor, a little more efficiently than our coworkers.
In my upcoming novel One Plus One Equals Trouble, debuting early November, my heroine is a striver, an over-worker. She feels like what she does is never enough.
Are you there, in that place of striving and exhaustion?
Be encouraged by these five verses. They erupt from passages of chaos and human endeavor and dust us with a layer of grace.
Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Context: Israel trapped between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army. What did instinct tell them to do? Fight. But God said to stand firm and let him fight for them. In other words, “Don’t think you’re getting out of this mess by any clever means or sweat of your own.”
2. Psalm 46:10
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Context: A Psalm of assurance that amidst earthquakes, warfare, or the threatening of homes, God’s power is greater. In other words, “Enough!” God says. “Settle down and know I am who I say I am.”
3. Isaiah 30:15-16
This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore you will flee! You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’ Therefore your pursuers will be swift!
Context: Israel has panicked and gone down to Egypt to seek an alliance. They’ve sought refuge in a nation, rather than in Yahweh. In other words, “Come back to me, your strength, and find refuge by ceasing your panicked striving.”
4. Matthew 11:28-30
“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 is light.”
Context: Jesus is teaching his disciples that the way to learn and follow him is not by taking on lists of rules. Rabbi Jesus offers a yoke different than the yokes forced on disciples by other rabbis. In other words, “Only in me will you find true rest. You won’t find rest in the rules offered by other religions. You won’t find rest by doing good deeds.”
5. John 15:4-5
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
Context: Jesus is about to die. It’s his last Passover meal with the disciples, and he wants to reiterate the oneness of himself with the Father, and subsequently, the oneness his disciples can have with him because of his death and coming resurrection. In other words, “I’m not just your teacher. I’m your life. Apart from me, you will be lifeless, fruitless. Not even your best efforts will produce fruit. Remain in me and see the life I will cause to flourish in you.”
What are your favorite verses on resting in grace?
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