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(or what it actually means to rest when you’re suffering)

You know the feeling: the teacher asks you the one question you should know the answer to but don’t. A survival-algorithm of random facts and last week’s vocabulary list scrambles to your tongue, but just as you’re ready to spit out a half-convincing answer, your eyes leak the truth: I don’t know.

Last week, I posed that kind of question. What does it mean to rest when you’re suffering? “Ok, so now I get to sit back and hear the answer,” half of me pretended… Until the silence made it all too clear: that question I asked, I really asked of me.

To be transparent, I fiddled like an on-the-spot student most of the week, trying to shore up a catchy answer. I frustrated several sheets of paper with the plea to produce some “three-step” formula.

So the question waited until yesterday. I sat cross-legged on a well-placed rock, my curious goosebumps greeting the spittle of a Montana waterfall. Face-to-face with the water, I told it the truth: I don’t know.

But then I noticed something: the avant-garde splatter of white and green wasn’t making a tidy argument for my attention. Yet there I sat, consumed by stillness. Why?

I wasn’t set at rest by the water’s tameness. The water arrested me with unpredictability.

If this is how the white-water quieted my body, how much more should the real source of rest? Not with a trite, pat-on-the-back mantra, but with cool, fresh persistence like a zealous waterfall. No self-help promise, breathing technique, or mind game is going to strike such a profile in our searchlight for rest because the source of rest is not a thing; it’s a person.

The source of rest is not a thing; it’s a person.

This person is probably the most misunderstood being, ever. Maybe you know him as the guy with the clipboard of rules. Maybe you see him as the person you call who never calls back. Or perhaps he’s the guy you wish you could know, but can’t figure out how.

I call him Jesus.

I call him other things too – my chosen keeper, forgiving lover, creative author, gentle friend, the-only-reason-I’m-still-going-at-this-thing-called-life… you get the idea. Dear friend, my heart breaks for you if you don’t know him like this. In his short time on earth, this Jesus made us an eternal promise:

Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

Now I’m willing to wager you’ve heard this verse before. We like to toss it around as a knee-jerk response to stress or fatigue. The words are pure truth. At this point, I’ve said it simply: rest while suffering = sitting in the presence of Jesus.

The truth is, living under the guidance of Jesus often feels like spending an hour cross-legged beneath the spray of a waterfall. Your face will probably glitter with a few over-ambitious drops of water (he seeks our joy, not our comfort). Most likely, you won’t see neat patterns of water (easy answers) either.

BUT: you will be fiercely at rest. Rest – if you recall, like a dead-man’s-float. Remember,

Rest in suffering is not escape from the trial, it is leaning into the current of our God, and letting him do the work for us.

But if you’re like me, you might still be wondering what this looks like.

So now I get to share with you some of the ways that by sinking into Jesus, you can actively practice rest. Not an exhaustive list, but very tangible ways that have flowed from my own suffering.

|glimpses of rest|

Answer the “how are you” question honestly.

Welcome a friend into your mess. Unapologetically.

Choose to believe Jesus is better than anything he might give you.

Communicate your nitty-gritty needs to others.

Seek out a simple way to use your gifts by serving someone else.

Pray for others; pray for your heart; let others pray for you.

Though I still have no answers for my tears – no words for these watermarks – I do have the gift of rest. And we have a God we can lean into, even though he may seem wild and overwhelming. He is not a tame God, but he is trustworthy. Come to me, and I will give you rest.

Let him.

“I know now Lord why you utter no answer, you are yourself the answer. At your face questions die away.” 

C.S. Lewis

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5 comments on “Watermarks, Part II.

  1. Ashley says:

    Claire, these words lead my heart like I feel in those last couple of minutes before reaching a summit or coming over a ridge to see the other side… thank you for sharing worthy words in a manner that squarely points to the source of your strength, Jesus.


  2. Anita Garrison says:

    Claire, I loved the beautiful imagery in you refreshing writing and your honesty. Thank you for the inspiring words and reminder of the only source of rest, Jesus. I will look forward to hearing more.


  3. Kathy says:

    Thank you Claire for sharing your heart. You have no idea the ripple affect these are having. The answer is always Jesus and the way you have woven Truth into your writings in the midst of difficult things, is beautiful. Keep writing! Keep blessing us.


  4. Greg Yancey says:

    Claire, amazing and wonderful words from a child of God who has deeply suffered during the past two years. I am thankful for your tender heart to dive into His rest, even in the midst of confusion, disappointment and heartache!


  5. Sara Stribley says:

    Claire, thank you for sharing these words of truth and honesty. You are anointed with a beautiful gift, I look forward to reading more.


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