Holy Restlessness? In his gripping story of his conversion, St. Augustine wrote in his book, Confessions, that, “our hearts are restless until they rest in You (God).” Today we hear from the Book of Job, “If in bed I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ then the night drags on; I am filled with restlessness until the dawn (Job 7:4)”.
Last week we heard in the Gospel of Mark about the fear of the unclean spirits at encountering Jesus as they cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God (Mark 1:24).”
Again, our Gospel today speaks of Jesus’ ministry exorcizing demons from the people throughout Galilee (see Mark 1:29-39). Do you find you have a restlessness? Do you find yourself struggling to know Jesus’ love for you? Do you identify yourself with the words of Job in today’s first reading? Do you find yourself agonizing over what others think? Do you notice anxiety and fear? Maybe you notice anger or resentment. Maybe you have a compulsive behavior, habit or sin you struggle in. That anger? Good chance there is an underlying fear there. Certainly, there is righteous anger, but righteous is not the anger we try to
justify to ourselves as being good.
Why would God allow us to be restless, you may wonder. “I go to Mass, I go to confession, I even do XYZ devotional, yet I feel restless in my interior life. But how can that be? Is not Christ the Prince of Peace? The one who is to give me rest?” Tough questions indeed, but worth asking!
Have you considered how good pain is? Take a pause now if you haven’t and ask God to reveal to you how pain is good.
Without pain, how would we know to remove our hand from the stovetop? Pain is a wonderful gift for our own good
Restlessness is a sort of pain is it not? That uncomfortability, that being “eaten up” feeling, it can be debilitating just like an injury of leaving our hand on the stove. So the question in our restlessness is not so much, “Lord take this away,” as much as, “Lord what are you communicating to me?” This inner restless feeling is an indicator to us that something is misaligned. There is an aspect of our heart that is not aligned with God’s will for us. Because we ignore this restlessness, it often presents itself in ways that may seem to be a mystery to ourselves. “Why do I go to food, tobacco, alcohol, anger, lust, or other things for comfort?” Is it the disquiet in your soul?
Perhaps there is a place Jesus is desiring to be invited into in your life. Dozens and dozens of times, scripture reveals phrases like, “Fear not,” “Be not afraid,” “Do not be anxious;” it is almost as if God’s word is trying to tell us something. Oh wait! God is telling us something very clearly – He does not desire us to be restless.
The hardest areas of my spiritual life have been the ones where shame, helplessness, etc. have been at the forefront. When I have abandoned everything to the Lord, He has provided many times greater in return. We often live in what Dr. Bob Schuchts calls an “Unholy self-reliance.” Where are you trying to work out your own salvation? Are you maybe standing in the way of Jesus who desires to make our yoke easy and burden light (Matthew 11:30)?
A complete abandonment to God, a self-surrender to the Lord, is the way to peace and rest. This side of heaven, we ought not expect perfection. God alone is perfect. Conversion is a continual process. I had the grace to meet with a woman in Quincy who changed my life and changed how I understood the priesthood. I had the privilege to be with her and to be the Holy Spirit’s instrument as she let go of her final anxiety and let God in. She has since gone on to her eternal reward.
Dear reader, your restlessness is a signal to turn to Christ, let Him in more fully, and surrender to Him. “No one comes to the Father except through me (Jesus) (John 14:6).” Please take notice of the restlessness. It is a gift. A gift that reminds us we are still in need of Jesus. Please pray the Surrender Novena. Servant of God Don Dolindo Ruotolo composed this powerful prayer and it is worth repeating many, many times.
God desires to be in full communion with us. The unclean spirits, the demons, stay in fear. He desires to take away our wounds, our fears, and our unholy self-reliance. Let Him.
Thank you for the dozens of beautiful notes, Christmas cards and the many generous gifts you have sent to me. Your
continued prayers and support are a great encouragement to me in my seminary formation.
Thomas Marten, Seminarian
5200 Glennon Drive
St. Louis, MO 63119