“You may be very active and involved in your church,
but without the fullness of the Spirit, you’ll miss the power of God.
What God is seeking from us is not more activity, but a deeper relationship.”
~ Henry Blackaby
I was crazy in my college days.
Not the standard college crazy. On top of tens of hours of homework in a highly technical degree program, extra coursework to maintain my spot in the top honors program and a living-learning community for women in STEM fields, music lessons, and a job as a research assistant, I was also burdened by an insatiable need to prove my gratitude and devotion to my Lord. I used strict adherence to a regimen of daily Bible reading and prayer along with dogged participation in every possible church event to prove to myself and my peers that my faith was genuine and to protect myself from being swept up by the current of my secular university. I fought hard. I pressed on. I accepted no excuses.
I was so, so tired.
I distinctly remember hauling my sleep-deprived self and my trusty Bible to the study lounge to read without waking my roommate before my early morning class. I propped up my head and tried to keep my eyes focused on the words in front of me until an impression too strong and too uncharacteristic to deny filled my head: This is not what I have asked of you. Go back to bed. The scandalous grace and nearness I felt in that message taught me so much more about my King than whatever passage I had started to read that morning, and I have not forgotten it yet.
Around the same time I was bowled over by Jesus’ tender criticism of the Church of Ephesus in Revelation 2: “I know your deeds, your hard work, and your perseverance…. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.”
Wait, what? The Ephesians had inexhaustible determination. They fought hard. They pressed on. They accepted no excuses. But they were missing love. How could this be? Weren’t their deeds, hard work, and perseverance enough? Didn’t the hardships they endured show their love? Jesus tells them no. So what did this love look like? For me, it was a God who says, “I created you for work and for rest. I see your work. Go get some rest.” It is the same God who says, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6); “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28); and “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10).
I don’t know about you, but I am so thankful for these repeated invitations and commands in Scripture to stop striving, to lay down the burdens I have placed on myself, and to find my rest in my Savior’s completed work on my behalf. This isn’t a call to laziness or idleness. Instead, it’s a call to dive deeper into the grace that’s available to me, to replace my white-knuckled determination with a limitless love, and to tap into the strength that the God of the universe has made available to me through dependence on him.
This is the part that I so often forget. God has called us to some really difficult things, like loving unlovely people, forgiving deep wounds, and pushing back against the consuming force of injustice. But we never have to go it alone or act in our own strength. It isn’t my grit that brings Him glory; it’s trusting Him to supply all the grace I need to follow wherever He leads. He sees me where I am, whether it’s exhausted in my dorm room, or trying not to scream about lost shoes, or wondering if my tiny candle is really doing any good against all this darkness. He has walked this road, too. And He has all that I need, for the impossibility of today and the uncertainty of tomorrow. And what He’s asking is that I plug into Him, be filled up in Him, and live out of the grace and strength that He provides. It is love that He offers me through the work of Jesus, and it is only through love that I can glorify Him by walking in trust and obedience to His commands.
God of Grace, thank you for the deep well of life, love, grace, and strength that you offer to me. Help me to drink deeply of the richness you provide and live out of that fullness today.
~ from the Faithful Life Planner ~
- Matthew 11:25-28
- Zechariah 4:6
- Revelation 2:1-5
- How does rest demonstrate trust in God?
- Where have I been relying on my own ability or activity instead of acting in God’s strength? How can I seek his help?
Micah Pitner is a wife, mom, and water resources engineer. She loves Jesus and going outside. She is practiced in the art of hot chocolate making.