Restless But Hopeful

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

Augustine of Hippo, Confessions Book I, Chapter 1.[1]

The Uncanny Nature of Existence

There is something uncanny about being human. Something so peculiar that we can’t exactly place our finger on it. Whether in the sweetest or most painful moments there is always a dull sensation in the back of our mind that we are not at home, we are restless. We are eager to be home, to find our rest.

When we look at our surroundings, we find free spirited individuals living on park benches, campsites, or squatter communities. We recognize this because they are living in a place that is not their natural habitat. And yet we seem to miss that fact that we are also living like fish out of water.

Parks are wonderful to visit, but in the long term cannot fully sustain our life. The requisites of a home are those things that fully lead to human flourishing. Whether our sweetest or saddest moment, we are left with the nagging twinge that there must be more to life than this. There has to be something that is our true home.

Signposts of Home

Our human experiences are signposts pointing us to something fundamentally other than ourselves. These experiences are comforting to us because they remind us of home, even though we feel as though we are not. This deep sense of “not-at-homeness” was encapsulated in the book by Martin Heidegger, Being and Time. He used the word, uncanny, or in German unheimlich. He put it this way.

Unheimlich is the fundamental groundlessness of our existence, this profoundly felt sense of not-being-at-home, wherever one would be.

Being and Time – Heidegger 1962, 214.

Far from finding this concept foreign to the Bible, the writer of Hebrews describes this very feeling and tells us where this homelessness, this unheimlich, points.

Heb. 11:8   By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

Finding our Home

We are all seeking a community and friendship that will last. We honestly don’t know what we actually are looking for, but when Jesus finds us we can finally say, “This is what I have been looking for all my life.”

We only discover this home, this rest, when we discover the greatness of God. He is the one whom we desire and truly seek. We will spend our lives in this uncanny existence seeing beautiful sunsets, wonderful beaches. families, friends and jobs whispering to us, flirting with us. They will promise only what they can point to, not what they really are. They are signposts and appetizers to the true beauty, the true home the true satisfaction that God is.

CS Lewis put it wonderfully, “The fact that our heart yearns for something Earth can’t supply is proof that Heaven must be our home.”[2]

God invites us into this rest not in here after, but in the here and now. Find your rest in Him.

[1] cor nostrum inquietum est donec requiescat in Te.

[2] CS Lewis, Mere Christianity book three, chapter ten

Dirt Under Your Nails

Exodus 31: 16 Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. 17 It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.

Dirt Under Your Nails

Read Exodus 31:12-18

If you have ever had to do a posting, slabbing, or mowing job in your garden after a proper days worth of work you end up with dirt underneath your nails. For some this dirt under the nails is part of the price of beautiful garden. Plato once remarked that manual labour was not worthy of humans. In fact to manual labour was seen as dehumanizing. In the Greek world work was so demeaning that slaves were often considered nothing but living tools. The respectable thing was to do mental labour.

But this is not the story of the Bible, which begins in a garden and ends in a garden. Work in no way dehumanizes us. It is precisely what makes us human, as we are made in the image of God—A workman God. Work is not a way of proving our worth.

Tim Keller once commented that the God of the Bible at the moment of creation can be found to have dirt underneath His fingernails.

What happened to us to make us fall out of love with work? Work was no longer something to be enjoyed. It would now become the main source of getting significance in the world.

Regardless of whether it is manual or mental labour, at the end of a day do we have the deep sense of contentment that God had upon finishing his labour in creation? God tells Moses in this passage, that it is possible to work and have contentment.

Work is no longer a means to an end; an incessant striving for significance. Work is delight and refreshment. It is deep cosmic rest. It is the much-needed REM sleep that rejuvenates not only our bodies, but our souls. We no longer have to prove ourselves.

The Sabbath is declaration that Jesus’ words on the cross ring true, “It is finished!”

Bishop JC Ryle once remarked of resting in this assurance of Jesus’ completed work.  “Assurance goes far to set a child of God free. It enables him to feel that the great business of life is a settled business. The great debt, a paid debt, the great disease, the healed disease, and the great works the finished work and all other business, disease, debts, and works are then by comparison small.”

Throw Your Doing Down

Ex. 23:12   “Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.

Read Exodus 23:10-19

One of the biggest problems humans face is deep restlessness. Judith Shulevitz, famed New York Times columnist, described this deep restlessness and our need for deep peace this way:

“Most people mistakenly believe that all you have to do to stop working is not work. The inventors of the Sabbath understood that it was a much more complicated undertaking. You cannot downshift casually and easily, the way you might slip into bed at the end of a long day not only did drudgery give way to festivity, family gatherings and occasionally worship, but the machinery of self-censorship shut down, too, stilling the eternal inner murmur of self-reproach.”

When evening rolls around distracting situations vie for our attention. Often evenings can be such occasion.  The main theme of these laws, however, is not just looking at forced rest; rather it is concerned with inward peace in all situations. The approach of night, with its temptation to brood on past wrongs and present perils, only challenges us to make our faith explicit and to urge it on others, as a committal of our cause and ourselves to a faithful Creator.

The Holy Spirit, speaking through Moses, challenges us to see where we derive our sense vindication, righteousness or rest. Any other way of seeking vindication will only lead to disillusion, “on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed” (v.12) The writer of Hebrews challenges this very notion quoting this the creation story and the Sabbath Laws, Heb 4:10 “for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His.”

But what is God’s rest? If Jesus is our righteousness then we don’t have to fight for our rights. If Jesus is our vindication we do not need to prove ourselves. It is this confidence in justification that leads to true, deep rest. It is Jesus who speaks to the restlessness of our life, “Peace, Be still.”

Sabbath Laws are not a primitive taboos, but deeply theological declarations. The glory of Israel’s faith is the belief that God preserves both man and beast (Ps. 36:6) and feeds the wild animals every day (Ps. 104:21). Christ tells us that God cares for the sparrows on the roof (Matt. 10:29) and feeds the ravens (Luke 12:24).

Jesus declares, “It is finished!”

Cast your deadly “doing” down—
Down at Jesus’ feet;
Stand in Him, in Him alone,
Gloriously complete.

(Hymn, “It is Finished” by James Proctor and Ira Sankey)


Strengthen the Brothers

…Aaron and Hur held up [Moses’] hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady… Exodus 17:12b

Read Exodus 17:8-16

How do you recharge? After a long day or week of work how do you replenish your strength? Do you recharge being around people? Or you do you recharge by sipping a cup a tea by yourself? Both of these practices recharge us. One involves the spiritual discipline of fellowship and the other solitude.  Both of these practices remind us of God’s pronouncement, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” (Gen. 2:18).

We were built for fellowship. The purpose of fellowship is to feed us spiritually, emotionally and socially.  God designed the very getting together of His people on Sunday so that we do not have to travel this life alone spiritually. An intentional day of rest is only rest when it is right ordered worship.

Moses and the people of Israel are now sojourning in the wilderness of Sinai. A wilderness is a place of solitude. It is a place bereft of even the basics for sustenance. The wilderness and solitude remind us that we need more than ourselves to live and thrive.

Moses and Israel are faced with the implacable enemy of Amalek. Israel attempts to fight in their strength. Their efforts are feeble struggles at best. The only way to survive is acknowledge that they do not need to face their struggles alone. God instructs Moses to raise his hands to Him. Raised hands show that we come empty handed in surrender. It is an internationally recognised symbol of surrender.  God surrounds Moses with able helpers such as Aaron, Hur, Miriam, and Jethro just to list a few.

When Moses’ hands become weak Aaron and Joshua strengthen him. It is in weakness that the Helper comes. It is in weakness that we receive the Helper. We were built for community. We were built for Pentecost. As the hymn-writer William Booth put it, “Make our weak hearts strong and brave, Send the Fire!”

Today pray:

Father, I thank you that your Son faced the ultimate loneliness in the Wilderness of the Cross so that I could be brought into fellowship and strengthened. Thank your for the gift of your Church that I do not have to travel this world alone. Thank you for the gift of your Spirit ‘who helps us in our weakness.” May I live in community that reflects love, the essence of fellowship. May this reflect your very nature as Trinity: Love.