Everyone’s looking for fulfillment. People are desperate for more: a bigger house, a different career, someone to love them, a baby, an exotic vacation, all in the hopes it will make the ache in their heart go away.
But it doesn’t.
Good relationships and material things can suppress that restless feeling for a while, but they can’t satisfy the longing of your soul.
The truth is, this world is not our home. The God who created us calls us into relationship with him. Our hearts will never find real lasting rest apart from God. Augustine said it this way: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
Paul tells us, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). The restlessness of our souls reveals the truth that we are longing for something we will never find on earth. So this is a good kind of restlessness.
Hebrews 11 lists men and women who lived by faith — men and women who believed that God exists and fulfills his promises to them. Rather than looking to receive God’s promises here on earth, “they were longing for a better country — a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16).
As followers of Jesus, when we recognize restlessness as a longing for something better than what this world can provide, we begin to move in the right direction.
Here are four points to guide you as you allow your restlessness to lead you closer to God.
1. Admit you are an exile from your true home
Refugees understand the idea of exile. No one speaks their language. The food tastes strange. The customs don’t make sense. Christians experience similar things in this world ruled by Satan.
Biblical writers refer to believers as strangers, foreigners, sojourners, and exiles. As travelers, we understand that this world can’t satisfy our desires. We work, create, and build relationships, but we don’t expect those things to fulfill us.
2. Yearn for Christ’s return
We believe that humans — although created in the image of God — are fallen; all people are sinners in need of a Savior. So, we reject the utopian myth that we can create heaven here on earth. While we care for the sick, help the poor, and defend the vulnerable against their oppressors, we know only Christ’s return will set things right. Therefore, we eagerly anticipate and long for that day. Our belief that Jesus will return gives us the power to obey God in the midst of the many struggles we face.
3. Live a holy life
This world appeals to our sinful nature. Current philosophies declare: “Do what feels good,” “Look after number one,” and “Each person determines his or her own truth.”
But the Bible tells us a different story:
- “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11).
- “Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear” (1 Peter 1:17).
- “You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Peter 3:11-12).
We don’t belong here, so we live differently than those who don’t believe God exists, or who don’t see that sin and judgement are real. Because we acknowledge that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), we humbly repent of our sins and surrender fully to God. The Holy Spirit then empowers us to abstain from sinful desires, to reverently fear God, and to live holy and godly lives as we trust him to do so.
4. Treat the things of this world as they really are: temporary
Death brings the truth of our mortality into focus. When a loved one dies, things that once brought us joy seem frivolous and meaningless. Yet as time passes, we once again forget — or choose not to think about — how brief and uncertain our stay on earth is.
We are called to constantly remember that everything on earth is temporary. Paul writes: “What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:29-31).
Living as strangers means using the things of this world without becoming consumed by them. Generosity, humility, and unselfishness characterize the lives of people who aren’t engrossed by the stuff or prestige of this world.
So, regardless of your current situation, I urge you to long for something better. Be restless for your real home. It would really benefit you to memorize one or two verses to remind yourself to live as an exile. (1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11; 1 Peter 1:17; 2 Peter 3:11-12. Ask God to give you a longing for him that surpasses all other desires.