“Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.”
– Isaiah 32:16-18
I feel a few things when I read these words. The first being excitement at the idea of justice dwelling “in the wilderness.” If this world is anything, it’s a wilderness. And of all the awful things that take place in this wilderness, such rampant injustice is one of the worst. And I don’t just mean that which has happened to me – I mean that everywhere I look, there seems to be evil and injustice stealing love and peace from innocent people, the severity of which is far more upsetting than things that have happened to me. It is without a doubt the hardest thing I struggle with. Often enough, the only idea that brings me consolation is that justice and righteousness will, one day, overcome this deeply twisted world. I certainly feel hope when I read of concepts like these.
As I continue reading though, my feelings begin to change. It seems that words of peace, quietness, trust, security, and rest do not immediately produce any feeling at all and the excitement switches rather dramatically to a vague and far-away sense of confusion – as though I’m reading words of a language I do not know. Yes, I can spell and even pronounce them correctly, but it’s disconnected as I have no idea how they’d look or feel. The best I can manage is to think of scenes from movies and imagine the happy feelings that would embody those ideas. But they’re imaginary to me. I can’t think of a single memory or experience in which I actually felt peaceful or secure. If I have any, they were either illusions or have long since been forgotten.
The other day, I was having a conversation with God about some issues I currently face. These issues directly effect my life and future, but I have not been allowed any control or influence over them. No amount of action (or inaction) makes any difference at all, which leaves me feeling wildly fearful and out of control. After expressing these fears and frustrations to God, I asked what He wanted me to do and the only two words I felt in my spirit were the exact words I don’t know how to implement. Those words were “hide” [in Him, not from life] and “rest.”
Ugh…really? Of all times that ‘rest’ may seem like a reasonable achievement, this is most certainly not one. My life and future are currently shrouded in darkness and hang in the balance of strangers I don’t even know. Hell, I don’t even know how I’m going to feed myself next month. Every moment is ridden with anxiety, so this is most certainly not the time in which I would think, “Yay! Let’s take a break!” Quite the opposite. Sheer panic is far more natural…and yet…God did not stutter. In fact, the words rang in my spirit so loudly they may as well have been audible. I can’t exactly pretend like I didn’t hear them. (Well I suppose I could, but being a foolish idiot isn’t a flaw I particularly wish to add to my already long list.)
So… now I struggle. To hide in Him and rest during the most anxiety-filled, out-of-my-control, world-altering season of my life is the exact opposite of everything I find natural. It also requires trust, which I fully believe was left entirely out of my genetic makeup. To entrust myself (or my life, or my feelings, or my plans, or my future) to anyone outside myself has never come naturally, even before I encountered betrayal and trauma. I even prefer the self-checkout at the store because it seems quite stupid to have another person do something for me that I’m fully capable of doing myself. (In all fairness, that’s also because I find non-essential human interaction an annoying waste of time.) My very first words were “me do it myself,” for crying out loud!
But back to my point… it takes an enormous amount of conscious effort and energy to act so counter-intuitively, which isn’t helped in the least by having PTSD. Even if I do manage a meager amount of trust that maybe, just maybe, things are going to be okay…random interactions trigger the PTSD and then all internal hell breaks loose. Feelings and memories I can’t control flood my body, setting off the fight-or-flight response which then takes hours, days, or even weeks to settle. And you never know when those triggers will get flipped, which is anxiety-producing in itself. (And people wonder why I prefer to be alone. Holy cow…believe me, it’s for the best.)
Anyways, when I think about it though, a lot of Jesus’ instructions are counter intuitive. The last shall be first, the poor shall be rich, you must give to receive, and to lead you must serve. To rest and have peace during the world’s worst hurricane is right in line with the rest of his teachings, and is clearly illustrated in many a Biblical story. Remember when Jesus called Peter out of the boat and onto the crashing waves? There was a storm on the sea and there Jesus is, walking on the water and beckoning Peter to come hang out with him. You know, like it’s no big deal. Peter begins to walk on the water but then begins to sink as he sees all the waves crashing around him. Imagine the panic he must have felt at THAT moment. Now imagine living in that state of panic for months and years on end. Yeah…not cool.
But here’s the thing. Maybe I was never meant to experience peace, quietness, trust, security, or rest as part of this broken world. Maybe Christ, and “hiding” in Him, is the only place I will ever learn what those words mean – even while the world rages on around me. I may be 30 years old, but I have absolutely zero experience with any of this so I might as well be a newborn. But again, wouldn’t that be in line with scripture? Being “born again” has a lot of implications…one of which is that no matter how old we are, following Christ is going to be a new start. We are going to learn things we never knew or understood before and in losing our life to Him, we will truly find it.
For me, lessons in rest and trust are only now beginning, but I am committed to learning them. I may not always have a clue what they mean or what they look like, and sometimes I legitimately think God has lost his ever-loving mind. But I also don’t go back on my commitments which means I’m going to figure this thing out one way or another. And in the meantime, pray that He sustains me as I fumble and crawl along this rocky path.