Rest for our Soul – the search for less

St. Augustine, the ancient church father, in his enduring work Confessions, renders  these words beautifully to our God: You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”  

How rich and how profound is that truth. That our God in His perfect will has made us for himself! How instead does our soul scrape and crawl for other things, and not for that repose which alone is to be found in Him. May our hearts burn with the conviction that it is only in that rest wherein our souls may find both the peace to repose and the strength to rise.

The God of the whole earth he is called(Is. 54:5) and, remembering Davids words in Ps. 139 to the Lord, may it speak to our hearts that there is truly nowhere, in the heavens or the earth,  where we can go to flee, hide or escape the holy presence and Spirit of the one God, who has made us for himself! How beautiful! Our age has so deconstructed (the bad kind) and distorted beauty with its myriad of natural, humanly constructed idealsthat we find it not natural to find this rest for [our] soul(Mt. 11:29) in the very God and person who formed us for himself. He who shaped the very heart wherein your longing lies waits for you to turn to him! OkIll try calm down with the italicsSorry.

Our souls live in a profound slew of contradictions. Some existential, some cultural, all spiritual. There is a war in our hearts between the honourable desire to praise God and to offer our full selves to Him, charged against the earthly pursuit of more, anxiously battling to synthesise that which is honourable with the onslaught of a culture that hates God. It seems as if the spiritual and cultural essence of our time is to count it noble to participate in a thousand wars, yet within ourselves maintain a profound, deep sense that each war is a losing battle.

Our fallen nature, leading us astray, is at constant war with that slim portion of our being that sincerely knows the truth – that wants to do good, that wants to love God, that wants to be free from anxiety, that wants to live a life of deep encounter with the presence of the Holy Spirit for the sake of others. Whether our minds have the awareness, our hearts know the reality that there is no pleasure to be found in this life apart from the praise of mans heart to God. As 17th century French Mathematician Blaise Pascal said, there is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.

The prevailing secular idea of our time is that there is nothing except created things. Not only is this idea frightening (and embarrassingly recent), but the consequences of this idea are the pre-eminent culture forming force of our age. Are we aware that not even twenty years ago, no one   ever lived like we do? Perhaps its better said that we live like no other human civilisation in all of history has lived, and yet, despite being plagued with busyness, mental maladies, loneliness and profound emptiness, we are convinced in the superiority of our age. And this is not only the view of the worldbut the reality of millions of Christians around the world.

We who claim to have the keys to freedom so easily slip into the chains that shackle the blind. But he gives us more grace(Jas 4:6).

Us Christians love the word counter-culture– it sounds cool – but I will risk to say that counter-cultureis not a cool youth service, big church, rock-sounding worship music, or even leading a connect group. Counter-culture is inner counter-formation to the patterns of this world, and the reshaping of our hearts to be more like Jesus. Counter-culture happens within your heart. You know, the one thing on earth you have just the slightest bit of control over?

My mind harkens to Pauls words, Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,(Rom 12:2). I love what the NLT says Do not copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.Let our great, beautiful God for whom one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day(2 Pt. 3:8) convict our hearts to ever so gently return the gaze of our hearts to Him whose nature is pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy(Jas 3:17). May we, unlike the world, turn away from the sinful Netflix show (theyre not all bad), may we halt after the sixthousandth instagram scroll, may we turn away from the email blackhole and the endless empty forms of entertainment built to harness all of our attention. May we be content, not seeking earthly promotion or the pursuit of that which moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal(Mat 6:19).

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lords glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit,(2 Cor 3:18). Counter to the frenzy of the world, may we from a place of contemplation seek for our hearts to ever rejoice in the gentle, always loving countenance of our Father. From that place may we consecrate the work of our hands to Jesus. From the  gentle, repeated orientation of our heart to the one God in three persons then may the honourable, godly, and active care of our lot (our responsibilities and the work of our hands) be sanctified to God.

You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”  Step back from the world and its affairs. Look at the Father. Step into His rest. Less is more.

By Jordan Bell