Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
It’s been a problem for many years, but we don’t really know what to do about it. And I’m talking about that ‘restlessness syndrome’—when we feel uptight, anxious and irritable, but we can’t understand what’s going on.
It’s a feeling that something’s wrong in my life, and I can’t give it a name. We find it hard to sit still, and we become fidgety and restless. Ever felt like that? I guess you probably have. Some see it as a type of ‘bottled-up energy’ without a solution. What can I do with it? A kind of all-pervading anxiety and fear that something awful is going to happen to me. It is not surprising that society today proposes attractive models of happiness: a nice car, a good house, making yourself beautiful, or work with a large salary.
Sometimes it can appear that being happy is easy, because we have everything within our reach. Yet, while we may feel happy during brief moments, in which we feel we do not need anything else to be happy, the unforeseen occurs, and sickness or evil invade our life. Then it seems that the happiness we tried to acquire can never happen at all and we will live forever in this desolation.
Restlessness is a symptom
We can’t find anything to be happy and contented about, and this only makes the restless feeling worse. And we become more anxious. Restlessness is a sign or symptom of something out of alignment within you. It can be physical, biochemical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. A young person wrote this to her counsellor:
I feel really restless sometimes. I’ll have the TV on, be scrolling through my phone, and starting a million projects or chores without really ever finishing anything. I get mad at myself for wasting so much time but I don’t really know what else to do. What can I do to feel better and be more productive?
Restlessness is a sign of something out of alignment within us.
I think this is a fairly typical response to restlessness. You could be in a rut and feeling bored with life and the direction you are travelling. Could be time for a change in your lifestyle. Staying connected with people is always a good move—our family, friends and support systems.
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Reaching out for help—gaining multiple perspectives, talking to the people we trust and telling them our situation, gathering views and deciding what’s best for us—can be of great help in order to respond to this feeling.
Our soul longing for God
I am interested in the old prayer from St Augustine that says, “Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” It’s a terrific prayer and hits the nail on the head—and it’s quite challenging too. The most compelling evidence for the existence of God is this simple quote.
We might call our restless heart by different names: our search for meaning, our desire for significance, the fuel that drives our accumulation of money and power. But I believe it is our soul longing for God, its creator. And I call God the Heavenly Father, as revealed in the Bible.
Our restlessness is our soul longing for God, its creator.
Pope Francis defined St Augustine’s restlessness, our restlessness, as “the restlessness of spiritual seeking, the restlessness of the encounter with God, the restlessness of love.” Have you had that encounter with God? Augustine rightly points out that our completion as individuals is not found in romance, wealth, nor learning—but rather in the One who formed us. God not only formed us but also came to dwell among us so that God himself might bring restoration to our hearts. The Holy Spirit haunts and hounds us until our restlessness converts into peace through him. I am convinced this is true.
If you’re feeling an inner restlessness, God may be trying to get a message to you. He does things like that to get your attention. God made you, so he knows all about your anxious thoughts. He knows the troubles you face. He knows that everyone experiences anxiety. So God’s Word, the Bible, is filled with many good, useful, and true things that are meant to help you in your struggle with worry and fear.
You can learn to remember God instead of forgetting him. God wants us to know him so intimately and trust him so completely that our desire to fix our troubles in our own way will no longer consume us. As we grow in our love for God, we will experience the right kind of concern in the midst of our troubles.