Jesus separated himself from the demands and hardships His ministry put upon Him. He knew when His body needed rest, that He needed to spend time with His Father to recharge and hear anew the work that would be His on the morrow.
We are encouraged to enter into ‘His rest,’ but our nature is to plow ahead and work out solutions for ourselves. Time for Jesus will have to wait until we are done or we get too deep into trouble and must take time for Him.
God, the creator and sovereign who orchestrates the movements of the heavens, also takes time to direct and conduct the song of our lives, often creating times of rest for us. John Ruskin said it this way; “There is no music in a rest, but there is the making of music in it.” He continued,
“In our whole life-melody, the music is broken off here and there by ‘rests,’ and we foolishly think we have come to the end of the tune. God sends a time of forced leisure, sickness, disappointed plans, frustrated efforts, and makes a sudden pause in the choral hymn of our lives; and we lament that our voices must be silent, and our part missing in the music which ever goes up to the ear of the Creator.
How does the musician read the ‘rest’? See him beat the time with unvarying count, and catch up the next note true and steady, as if no breaking place had come between. Not without design, does God write the music of our lives.
Be it ours to learn the tune, and not be dismayed at the ‘rests.’ They are not to be slurred over, not to be omitted, not to destroy the melody, not to change the keynote. If we look up, God Himself will beat the time for us. With the eye on Him, we shall strike the next note full and clear.
If we sadly say to ourselves, ‘there is no music in a ‘rest’, let us not forget ‘there is the making of music in it.’ The making of music is often a slow and painful process in this life. How patiently God works to teach us! How long He waits for us to learn the lesson!”
Yes, how hard it is for us to learn the deep lessons of life. How hard to do the thing we know to do, because it is so hard to kneel down, look up, and place our lives, our fate into God’s almighty hands. Our fate is there already, but by great effort we resist His plan, and seek our own.
We do not often like God’s plan, for it is always uphill, straight and narrow. Pain and difficulty often accompanies the path we must follow, and therefore we would not select such a way.
But God is all knowing and sees the end that we do not. He knows the lessons we need to learn and those we would avoid if left to our choosing. When hardship comes, we bristle, balk, and cry out in anguish for relief … without taking time apart with our Savior to hear what He might say to encourage us or lighten our fears.
I say these things with certainty, because upon examining my heart, I have found these things to be true of me. I had trials and troubles through life, but God seemed always to lift me and carry me through them. I thought, because I had given myself over to Him and ‘sacrificed’ my career to work in His vineyard, that these blessings were a recompense.
But a series of health-related events over the past several years have become like those ‘rests’ that Ruskin spoke about. I have at times thought that my melody was over and I had no longer a place in His grand plan … and it may be true that my future efforts will be different. But in these times of rest, or desert times as I call them, I am forced to kneel, look up, acknowledge that I cannot do this alone, that He is in charge, and I am not.
I realize also that I have sacrificed nothing but have been given everything. His vineyard is not just in ‘the ministry’ but everywhere. Had I stayed in business, I would have the same responsibility to serve Him by serving others and sharing His Gospel as best I can, wherever I can and support those who do.
My shortcomings are all the more clear during times of introspection with the aid of the Holy Spirit. My need is all the greater to draw closer to Him who is my strength and righteousness, for I have none on my own.
The manner in which I exit this world is not so important as the manner in which I live and love in Jesus’ name … the faith by which I cling to Him and the song of praise I sing to Him as I make my way to transition from mortality to immortality.
Lord, help me to pause at each rest and hold each note for the appropriate time. Keep me from getting offkey when worldly tunes pull at me in times of weakness. Lift me from despair by reminding me that I cannot go where you are not there, and no one can pluck me from your strong hands. Remind me, also, that you have my good in mind through any trials I might face.
Bad things may happen to me, but you will use them to develop something good in me that you desire for eternity. Mine is not to direct the way … but to walk in the way, as You direct. I need your help to maintain a positive attitude. Where I have ‘little faith,’ grant me greater faith until I am grown and mature in your Holy Spirit and can, at last, enter into your perfect rest.
The strings of my heart are yours to play. Help me, O Lord, to be a willing instrument, yielded to your tempo, rests, and direction.
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