As the past two years of growth have unfolded for me, it’s taught me the radical lesson that life is hard.
When life felt controllable, manageable, and consistent, I was able to convince myself that life wasn’t hard. But, in hindsight I can see that I wasn’t truly engaged with my life, never really present with my family and friends, not connected to the pains and struggles of life.
As a lifelong Christian, God has always been present and active in my life. However, my conscious need for Christ has grown exponentially over the past two years. Rather than the, “Thanks God, I’ve got it from here!” attitude that dominated my life, I’m now embracing my complete and constant dependence on Christ.
Depending on Christ, it turns out, doesn’t remedy the restlessness of life on earth. Though we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit and in communion with Christ, the human experience remains one of yearning and incompleteness. As Pascal described, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” But, as sinful man, we do try to fill that God shaped hole with worldly pursuits and things.
In Forgotten Among the Lilies: Learning to Love Beyond Our Fears, priest Ronald Rolheiser says,
“In our western world we live in a culture that stresses the importance and significance of the individual, while at the same time downplaying the importance of God. These two emphases, the significance of the individual life and the absence of God, cannot go together without creating an intolerable restlessness inside each of us. A fundamental dis-ease results when the truths that are revealed by God are taught in a world that postures independence of God.” (pg. 19)
Striving and seeking to make life worthwhile, to feel that you are special and to distinguish yourself and your life amongst the billions of other individuals striving to do the same, is a recipe for unhappiness and frustration. The secular world sells people on the idea that maintaining high self-esteem and the pursuit of your personal “happiness” is the ultimate good.
In contrast, a life in Christ teaches us that we are unique, special, and loved because we’re created by God. There’s nothing we need to do to earn God’s love or distinguish ourselves in His eyes. Rolheiser explains, “Our world teaches us that we are significant and precious, but then deprives us of the one thing that can make us so, God. This sets off an incurable ache.” (pg. 20)
These words have provided me with a peace and inner calm because they helped me understand what I was calling the “wildness” or “rawness” of life. Restlessness is part of our human condition because we’re not yet fully united with God. Feeling restless doesn’t mean there’s anything I need to strive to understand or fix. Instead, I can rest in prayer, rest in God, and trust Christ to fulfill what nothing in this world can satisfy.