Rest For the Weary (Spiritual Warfare)
Rest For the Weary
Stephen Lucas, SFC, USA, Retired
I remember reading an account of a small-unit fight during the World-War II “Battle of the Bulge” . The Germans had pushed the “bulge” into the allied lines in the Ardennines Forest, sometimes, over the bodies of troops from “resting” or “green” U.S. and Allied units.
A Lieutenant was watching one of his soldiers -- one of a handful of American troops who were stretched-thin in defensive positions amidst the rubble of a village next to a small bridge – a bridge critical to the German advance or any Allied counter-attack -- and he told of watching the exhausted soldier – a sergeant, manning the .50-cal on the turret of an immobilized Sherman tank on the third day of the battle.
When the Wehrmacht infantry would emerge from the wood-line to advance on the bridge and their rounds would begin pinging off the armor, the sleeping Non-Com would rouse himself and fire accurate and controlled bursts until the enemy was dead or in retreat, then slump back into exhausted sleep behind the turret for the few minutes it took for the enemy to regroup and attempt another advance.
Over and over, he rested, he roused, he fought… and he rested again. He was exhausted from days of fighting without relief -- but relief finally did come and the sergeant survived to fight another day.
It seems insane that one could sleep in the middle of a battle, but when the battle is goes on and on, what choice do we have but to seek rest whenever and wherever it’s possible?
But what if it seems… impossible?
Sometimes it seems that we are in a battle without end and that the attacks on our peace, serenity and the core of our faith are coming so hot and heavy that there’s not even a moment’s rest available to us.
Many of us are well-equipped for the battle against the forces attacking us, forces more deadly and more powerful than the flesh-and-blood soldiers the sergeant was facing (Ephesians 6:12). We’ve put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18)… our “battle-rattle” includes truth, righteousness and salvation. We’re shielded by our faith and can cut down our incorporeal enemies with the Claymore --the “great-sword” -- of the Spirit.
But, many, many of us are VERY tired, and there seems to be no chance to catch any “spiritual” rest, no ceasing from attacks for even a moment.
I hear prayer requests, almost daily, being part of a chain of prayer-warriors, from people feeling overwhelmed by the things “assaulting” them.
A few nights ago, as my darling wife and I were engaged in prayer before bed, she got a text telling her a Christian friend and her teen-aged daughter had been in a car accident, nearby. The daughter survived, but her mother did not. Her young-adult son, who we’d watched “grow-up” in our church, was on the way to the trauma-center with our youth-minister, to be with his sister.
I burst into tears as we went to the Lord in prayer for the young man, his sister and the church families whose grief was spreading as the texts sped thru our community – I could barely choke out words, and had to simply “let the spirit groan for me” (Romans 8:26).
Later, I wondered why the news had “hit” me so hard, I mean, this didn’t just “ping” off the armor nearby – it was a “knock the breath out of you and bruise you to the bone hit on the body-armor” kind of thing. After some prayer and meditation, I believe it was because I am, myself, exhausted from my battles over the past eight months.
We’re all under attack: precious children are sick or hurting; spouses estranged; “bosses” and co-workers seem hostile, and the job’s getting tougher, moment by moment. People near and dear to us are “taken” suddenly and, seemingly, too soon. There’re clashes and conflicts in the congregation, and old temptations that we thought we’d overcome are re-emerging and “pinging” like rifle-fire all around us.
We’re under attack, and we wonder how long we can “stand our ground” without relief.
Jesus Christ told us we’re going to have trouble (John 16) and told us, if we want to be His disciples, we are to take up our crosses, daily, and follow Him (Luke 9:23). The cross is an instrument of torture and execution, not a place of rest, even less so than the deck of a Sherman tank.
So it is that “it” then? Are we doomed to unceasing struggle in a broken world that will end only when we are completely worn down and we die and go home to our eternal rest?
No… no… brother… sister… Take heart!
It doesn’t take great faith to over come this feeling of desperation (Matthew 17:20); what it takes is for you to look at what the Lord is doing and has already done in you and the people around you.
“I know a man in Christ…” (2 Corinthians 12:2) who, as he lay dying on a gurney, testified “God is Good”.
There are those walking among us that seem to have a supernaturally strong serenity - a core of "peace that passes understanding". There’s a part of them that seems always at rest, so that they face their struggles and attacks without the same kind of angst and agony that many of us are mired in (Psalm 40:2).
Paul, who was attacked, almost continually, during his Christian walk (2 Corinthians 11:23-28) and who died in chains, said the secret to finding that peace is to rejoice in the presence of the Lord in our lives and to take everything to Him in prayer, with thanksgiving. (Philippians 4:4-7).
The “12-step” recovery people call it an “attitude of gratitude” and scripture points to its value and its necessity in too many places to cite.
It seems like the entire Old Testament can be summed up as “remember what the Lord your God has done for you” and “look forward to what He will do for you when his Promised One comes.”
The Messiah has come, the battle’s already been won, and these things coming against you are the last-ditch efforts of a failed and already defeated false lord whose attacks are mostly deceptions designed to make you fear what should not be feared (Luke 12:4; Romans 8:37; Colossians 1:15-20).
Your may rest in the Lord right in the middle of the battle, by engaging in an ongoing conversation with the Lord of Hosts who promises that these fights are part of something bigger and better than we can see from our assailed position (Romans 8:28).
We can also actually see some things around us that help protect us from the enemies’ attacks and that remind us that our “relief” is sure and not far away (Philippians 4:8-9).
Find your rest in Him (Matthew 11:28) in the moments we all have. Sitting by a hospital bed or laying in it, we can pray… In a funeral parlor, in a contentious business meeting, in a painful family meeting or a broken home, we can pray and remember that He’s already insured our eternal survival and eventual victory.
Keep on fighting, keep on resting in Him --you are more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37).