The other night, I enjoyed the beautiful sunset and the cooler weather by making a fire in the fire pit. As I sat there, I recognized suddenly that I was restless. My mind was occupied with far too many things; I simply could not distance myself enough from my thoughts in order to relax. The scenery was beautiful, the fire seductive. But still, my mind simply would not allow me to rest.
It was this recognition that reminded me of the famous and often quoted phrase by St. Augustine:
“You have made us for yourself, oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”
I was restless.
This quote by Augustine describes the state of our hearts until we find God, and come to believe – directed by our joy of praising the Divine. It is intended to show the peace that comes from knowing, and following God.
But I have already found God. So why all this restlessness?
Of course, this isn’t exactly the right question to ask.
God has told us that there will be trouble in this life (John 16:33). But also, he told of the coming troubles we would experience in order that we could have peace. This peace is the same as the rest that Augustine speaks about. It is a confidence in the work that God is doing which allows us to rest in the knowledge that God’s plans will unfold despite what we may see happening around us in the world.
All of what is happening is moving toward the final end, toward the final reconciliation of all of humanity with God. Anything that happens along the way is merely a speed bump on the way to that majestic and apocalyptic conclusion. God is still in control, and our troubling experiences are intended to draw us closer to God.
Only it just doesn’t always feel that way. Because our troubles may make us think that our own little world is reaching its end, or our troubles may feel like the end of the world is near. That’s why the restlessness.
So the better question to ask is “Why am I not resting in God?” And the connected question, “What am I trying to hold on to, and not hand over to God?” It is the answer to these questions that allow us to hand off our troubles to God and to rest in the assurance that God’s plans are unfolding with a purpose of moving us closer to God, and our lives closer to the final end.
Again, easier said than done.
But, our restlessness is an opportunity for us to once again “find our rest in God.” Each moment of restlessness, of trouble, of testing, allows us to push through the difficult questions until we see a brand new face of God. It allows us to experience a new facet of God that we have not experienced before. It allows God to become bigger, fuller, and more inclusive of all our fears, troubles, and peccadilloes.
The Apostle Paul tells us that once the veil is lifted from our eyes after we have turned to God, and that then we will be transformed from Glory to Glory.
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.(2 Cor. 3:17-18)
Then the transformation begins. Slowly, and often painfully. And most definitely, restlessly.
While I didn’t come to find any rest by the fire that night, the slow realization of what I had been holding on to, what had been keeping me from resting in God, solidified a few days later. And then, having drawn near to the spirit of God, I found freedom.
Mike is a jack of all trades, master of none. He’s a data analyst, programmer, and loves to cook. If he doesn’t have his face buried in a book or is staring blankly at a computer screen, you can find him on a motorcycle, enjoying the ride.
Mike holds a Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary.