On Rest: Striving for The End of Ends

US Navy 111208-F-UI176-619 A runner sprints for the finish line during the 29th annual Grand Bara 15K race in the Grand Bara Desert, Djibouti

“Theirs is an endless road, a hopeless maze, who seek for goods before they seek for God.”

– Bernard of Clairvaux, On the Love of God, 57, (as found in Late Medieval Mysticism, John C. Petry and John Baillie).

“…our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

– Augustine, Confessions, 1.

10lbs, an A+ on a paper, a “Great job!” from a coworker, that 5 days at the beach, those extra 10 minutes of sleep, and that winning touch down all have this in common: they are ends after which we strive. Help me out; what do you wish you had that would make everything o.k? What do you spend your time striving after? If we are honest, our life is spent chasing an illusive white rabbit, the white rabbit of contentment, joy, satisfaction, and rest. Our entire education system is even built around this principle; we strive for the SAT scores to get into good colleges to get a good job to make a lot of money. We pine away at the gym or at that weight loss program to slim down a bit. We count the days left in our mundane offices, living for that vacation.  Humanity strives for the ends. And yet, a strange thing happens when we finally get them: they are not enough. We are left empty and unfulfilled at the end of our striving. We want to loose more weight. We want another A. We want more approval. Our vacation feels like 30 seconds instead of a week. We want more money. The white rabbit evades us once more and shimmies down the hole just when we’ve got it in our grasps. Why? Because we weren’t made for the perfect weight. We weren’t created for A’s. We weren’t created for mankind’s approval or for fantastic, relaxing vacations.

Bernard and Augustine, in all of their ancient, monkish glory, whisper to us the secret of Christian joy, the secret of Christian rest: Jesus. We were made for Him, and until we strive after Him, we will search in vain. Who likes endless roads? Who wants to wander in a maze and never find the way out? Who wants to be restless forever? There is no rest for those who strive after hopeless, empty idols. All life finds its existence in Him, and as long as we look for life elsewhere, we will miss Life itself; we will miss Him. Jesus says, “I am the way, and the true, and the life,” (John 14:6).

I’m tired. Aren’t you? I’m tired of making my life about ends which don’t deliver. I’m tired of the rat race. No one seems to notice that we are killing ourselves, drinking from saltwater wells that only make us thirstier. And here, Paul offers us some nourishment. He says, “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ,” (Phil. 3:8). All of the Christian’s pining, all of his striving, becomes about the great Object, Jesus Christ. All of the Christian’s suffering is meant to prepare him for the winning of that great Prize, that great Rest, that great Satisfaction. All of the Christian’s experience is meant to prepare him to take hold of, fully and completely, Christ Jesus.

It’s time to repent. Let’s repent of our failure to rest in Christ. Let’s repent of our constant forsaking of Him and our constant pursuit of saltwater. Indeed, we have all but forgotten how to rest, haven’t we? Our smart phones constantly bombard us with an endless deluge of Twitter updates, text messages, Facebook pics, and the like. Our days are filled with hurried dinners and t.v shows which never end. Our mornings are a blur of cereals and showers. Let’s repent, and, by faith, let us return to Christ. Let us forsake our vanity and strivings, and let us strive for Him. Let’s work to know Him more, to slow our mornings down to read of Him, to pray to Him.

A friend and I sat down to coffee the other day. Towards the end, our conversation turned to the Christian experience of hardship. The Christian is constantly solicited by sin and is constantly tempted to find their hope in a myriad of things. We turned to the question, “How can we persevere?” How can we persevere in a culture which strives after emptiness? How can we ourselves, worn and weakened by our own sin, keep going? As we finished up our coffee, the answer was apparent. The Object of our strivings makes it worth it. If Christ is the end after which we strive, then we resolve to walk through whatever may come. If we, like Paul, will gain Christ through faith, then, come what may, we will strive to enter into that Rest (Hebrews 4); we will strive after the End of all ends.

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