When we remember God’s presence goes with us and before us, we can find comfort in any circumstance.
Two weeks into the summer I learned something I had never known. After a number of years working at a bank, I was overjoyed to be working as a teacher. I’d just finished my first year at a classical Christian school where I taught New Testament, systematic theology, and hermeneutics, and I’d loved every minute of it. The school was an exhilarating environment and one in which I thrived. The classroom was my sweet spot. Every day was a joy, and I was even thankful for the hard days and sometimes difficult students. But as great as it was, I was also looking forward to two months of summer.
But I couldn’t even begin to comprehend this kind of rest. Two months of family time and pool time, sleeping in, reading only what I wanted to read, and vacationing to St. Louis without coming right back to work—I couldn’t get my head around it. I’d longed for the days when I was off for the summer just like when I was a kid, but after two weeks, I realized something: this was not the rest I was looking for.
Something was missing. I could feel it in my bones and in my spirit. I needed a rest that was beyond summer days and nights and the smell of chlorine and sun on my skin. Don’t get me wrong; I still enjoyed the days off and the time spent with my three kids and my wife. I enjoyed waking up day after day without having to go anywhere except for a run, which would then be followed by… no work.
What I realized was that I needed more than time off and leisurely hours. I began to see that the rest I longed for was the kind that could be accessed even while working and without two months off, in any season of life—the rest offered in the scriptures.
I imagine Moses thought he needed a break too. Leading the Israelites out of Egypt was no cakewalk. And even after he led them out, they complained and whined and complained some more. Then, after turning his back for just a few days while on Mt. Sinai, the people forgot about their God and built a golden calf. So when God tells Moses to take His people and go into the promised land, Moses becomes worried; I can almost hear it in his voice, begging God to not abandon them. But God reassures him and says, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14).
That’s the rest I was looking for, the kind that can only be found in God’s presence. For the first time I understood Jesus’s offer of rest. When we place all our confidence in the life, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus that has brought us peace with God, well, that’s true and lasting rest—not the world’s version. We were made for more than even the sunniest days in this broken world; we were made for an eternity lived in God’s presence.
Written by Matt Redmond