So many things threaten to “undo” our peace.
Sometimes it is sin committed against us, sometimes our own sin unconfessed; sometimes we grieve loss of various kinds in a world turned upside down; sometimes we watch or are the prodigal sprinting to a supposed “safe place,” a place of assumed comfort, only to find it is anything but calm. And sometimes it’s obedience in a long direction. But though that “delayed obedience” may take a winding path, when it ultimately returns to the Truth, the enemy of our souls cringe. And sometimes it is loving unbelievers bent on denying the reality of Christ or believers who confess the name of Jesus but think and live like it makes no difference; yet we do not compromise our words or actions to appease and “make nice” but firmly speak truth out of a great love for them and for our Savior. And a tremble can be felt.
We are setting holiness in motion; allowing God to reign and work. The enemy can wound our spirit, make us uncomfortable, insert sadness, stoke discouragement, or prompt tears.
But He cannot destroy us.
We can have rest.
“The weary world rejoices” and so can we as we set our minds on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy”and not let the lies penetrate our soul. Pain is real but so is the Savior who has promised peace for the brokenhearted, a way of return for the runner, rest for the weary.
Sin does not have to separate any further. No, we don’t always follow perfectly, but we are in this world to be Christ’s image bearers, light shining in this generation, and we have been given the power to overcome. When we fail (and we will), we can run to the Savior and humbly go to those we have wounded or sinned against and make it right. We can admit to those who have witnessed our failure and cynically thought, “Well, there you go – I see there’s really no difference in a follower of Christ”and we can live as one changed. For the difference is not in us; it’s in our Savior.
We have not only the obligation but the privilege of laying it down and reminding the watching ones that our hope is in Jesus and our desire is to become more like Him daily, to increasingly want His will not ours, and to understand and live out the beauty of His holiness a little more with each passing day and year. And by His grace, we have that One who forgives us, picks us up, embraces us, brushes us off, then sends us out to “go and sin no more.” We are great sinners, but we have a greater Savior! (paraphrased from John Newton)
And so, there are times we will have a settledness in our souls and times when restlessness will haunt us; but, for the follower of Jesus Christ, we are at peace with God through the finished work of His Son, who came as babe on a silent night, crashing through the barrier between those who bear His image and our three times holy God, devastating death there on the cross with “Tetelestai” – “It Is Finished!” The condemnation of our sin is paid for, defeat by discouragement has been decimated, and we, who long for the Savior’s return, keep “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” so that we are growing deeper in His truth and in His love, able to enter that respite and “shake off our fears.”
And it all began on that no so silent night!
We long for His return even when we feel too attached to this world. This is Christmas! The longing for Jesus to break through darkness and discouragement, hold us near to His heart, and equip us to rest even when circumstances cause our spirits to sometimes faint, even falter!
Christopher West says it well, reminding us of the reality of hope we find even in our weariness: “This is the Christmas story in a nutshell: The Infinite One has wed himself to our finite humanity. This is what we’re preparing ourselves for during Advent. And this is why Advent is a time of desire: The bride is longing to be filled with the eternal life of her bridegroom. And so she cries in union with the Spirit of God: “O come, O come, Emmanuel.”
And Emmanuel has come. It is finished!