rest·less/ˈrɛstlɪs/ Show Spelled [rest-lis]
1. characterized by or showing inability to remain at rest: a restless mood.
2. unquiet or uneasy, as a person, the mind, or the heart.
3. never at rest; perpetually agitated or in motion: the restless sea.
4. without rest; without restful sleep: a restless night.
5. unceasingly active; averse to quiet or inaction, as persons: a restless crowd.
When most people hear the word restless, they seem to think about something negative. It's easy to see why when the definitions use descriptions like "inability to remain at rest," "unquiet," "perpetually agitated," "without restful sleep," "averse to quiet," etc. The emotion that accompanies restlessness seems to be one of angst, of disquiet, of a lack of peace.
Last week, I went to a training meeting for my upcoming mission trip. My pastor, in greeting, asked how my day had gone. I had gotten that particular day off. While I did spend a little bit of that day working on preparations for the meeting (and the mission trip in general), I spent a great deal more of that day playing games on my phone, sleeping, or just wasting time.
So when my pastor asked me how my day had gone, I had a one-word reply: "Restful."
My pastor said that was "good" or "nice" or something, and then the meeting began. And I remember just briefly thinking, before focusing on the meeting, that my day hadn't been all that nice or good. Even though I had spent most of the day resting, I didn't really feel all that rested.
And though I was feeling angsty and unsettled at the time, I really don't think I was in a restless mood.
I was just lazy.
I was just lazy.
There's a song by Switchfoot that's been out for a couple of years I guess. It's called "Restless." The first few times I listened to it, I was both confused and curious about it. After all, wasn't it a BAD thing, particularly for a Christian, to feel restless? Didn't that indicate a lack of peace? Didn't that indicate that we weren't satisfied or content with life?
What if the answer is YES. What if restlessness does mean a lack of peace, a lack of satisfaction? But what if that weren't a bad thing, after all.
What I'm NOT saying is that we shouldn't be content. I'm not saying that we shouldn't have peace with God. and be grateful for all the blessings He gives us. But I am saying that there is something we should be pursuing, and honestly, on that wasted day off, most of what I was pursuing was not really something worth pursuing.
I'm also NOT saying that we shouldn't have rest. God created the Sabbath and placed pretty high importance upon it. Humans were created to NEED rest; that's part of who we are. There's nothing wrong with taking a day off.
There's also nothing wrong with playing games, watching a good movie or television show, reading a good book, etc. Art is also something God created, and He created us to be creative. As a writer, I would think it pretty awful if I wrote things that would never be read and appreciated. Art is meant to be appreciated. So I'm also NOT saying that it's sinful to watch a good movie or play or to read a good book or even play a silly game every so often.
But what I forget all too often is that there are things that are worth pursuing, and if I stop pursuing these things in order to chase the frivolous, if my passion is for my worthless addictions and not for the things of God, then I'm creating an idol, and that idol is ME.
The more I started listening to that song by Switchfoot, the more I realized what it was talking about., and it quickly became a favorite song. In the song, "Restless," the beginning illustration is a drop of water pursuing something more. The drop seeks the stream. The stream chases the river. The river chases the ocean. The ocean seeks the shore. And for the stream, for the Christian, to be stagnant is to be dying.
No, there's nothing wrong with taking a day off or with relaxing, but we can never allow ourselves to believe the LIE that this world is a place where we can be comfortable. This world isn't our home. In fact, we are aliens living as strangers in a strange land. Spiritual battles rage around us. And sometimes I just want to kick off my shoes and stretch out and rest a good long while in the things that make me happy. We can visit that, but never live there for more than a little while. We weren't meant to live like that, and I think it's "restfulness" like that which causes the "restlessness" we don't want.
I also think that sometimes we all want to be happy and carefree that we pretend that a lack of struggle is a good thing. So we believe the LIE that if we're struggling, that must necessarily mean there's something wrong. If we're wrestling, then that must necessarily mean our heart isn't right. Certainly a lack of Spiritual peace can cause struggle, but I have a different perspective. If we're not struggling, if we're not actively striving for something more, if we're not experiencing any hardship, then it could mean that Satan has us right where he wants us.
There are people who are dying in their sin, not even believing or caring that there's a Savior waiting to save them. We need to wrestle in prayer for the lost of this world. The enemy is all around us, trying to find a foothold into our lives, seeking a way to devour us. We need to equip ourselves for battle--including more prayer. There are evils and injustices all around us--we need to fight. We need to seek. We need to ask and knock. We need to strive with God.
And more than that, we need to pursue the God of the universe, the One who created us, the One who knows us and loves us so completely. He created us to need Him. We need to pursue Him if only for the simple fact that He is perfectly pursuing us.
This is the restlessness I want, the restlessness I need. I call it the holy tension, the knowledge that while we need to seek peace and rest in our Father, we also need to live in the reality that this world is not quite right, and that the days are evil. We need God. We can't be stagnant. We have to keep seeking that deeper ground.
"...until the Sea of Glass we meet
At last completed and complete
Where tide and tear and pain subside
And laughter drinks them dry
I'll be waiting, anticipating
All that I aim for
What I was made for
With every heart beat
All of my blood bleeds
Running inside me
Looking for you..."