January is an excellent time to reaffirm our priorities and desires for the kind of life that we want to live. In this yearly assessment of past projects and future hopes it is of great value to ask ourselves the striking question that Wesley’s Methodists were wont to probe one another with: How is it with your soul?
What is the tenor of your heart, your very being, from which spring all of the other issues of life? Is it resting in God? Or is it weighted with the burden of suppressed tension? As Christians, it is our privilege to pass through this world in the serenity of a quiet faith in God, but all too often the rest we should be experiencing is shattered by the strife and hurry of the world. This is nothing that God did not anticipate, however.
The Bible is full of exhortations to quiet our souls before Him, to silence the urgent wail of the outside world and drink in the strengthening tonic of stillness. We can be still, as Brother Lawrence learned, in the midst of loved duties, as well as in the round of tasks that are our lot but which lack outward dignity: “I am more united to God in my outward employments than when I leave them for devotion and retirement.”
Strife is the great enemy of rest. Resting in God means that we have accepted the claims of all of his promises as they apply to our daily lives, and that we have allowed the peace of Christ to literally rule in our hearts. Strife takes God’s responsibilities upon our own frail shoulders, even in the imagination. But there is one type of striving that God commends, the untiring persistence for godliness that Paul speaks of in Philippians 3: “…I follow after, so that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus laid hold of me…”
The Christian life is a valiant struggle to apprehend all that is already ours. And one of the most precious things we are called to strive for is this great ‘repose of Christianity’, the rest that God promises to those who believe Him. “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.”