An answer to a restless spirit


It seems as if there is a common theme these days among Christian women: the desire for something more. There is a restlessness, a longing for something more than being defined by being a mom, a homemaker or a single female. In response to this, there have been many blog posts in recent days about finding fulfillment by using your spiritual gifts and talents as an outlet or an answer to this restless desire. I’m hearing the phrase frequently, “finding your voice.”

There is truth to this. It is encouraging to hear other women encourage others to use their gifts, and sometimes some of us need a good kick-you-in-the-pants speech to get us moving. However, I want to submit to you that this is not the final solution. The answer I think Scripture gives is this: you and I will not find rest, contentment and fulfillment in anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ.

Let me give you my story.

I am prone to restlessness. I am the lyrics of the great hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” that sings, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.” I am prone to look for fulfillment in the next best thing. In the next phase of life. I sought this as a young, single woman who longed to find companionship and love. I wanted a husband and thought how much better my life would be once that part was settled. I married, and I love my husband with my whole heart. He has been one of the greatest blessings to me. However, he did not answer my heart’s needs for rest and contentment.

During our marriage when I was on staff at The Alabama Baptist writing news and feature stories, laying out pages, meeting with important Baptist people for interviews, I was physically tired because the job required a lot and didn’t allow for pursuing personal ministry goals. I always dreamed of being able to stay at home one day and to not have to depend on me having a salary. I wanted the freedom to wake up late and be home (I love being home!) when I wanted. This is what I dreamed life would be as a stay-at-home mom. I was looking for contentment in the next phase of life.

When we found out we were pregnant with our son, I was relieved to know that my American dream of having a family would come to fruition. Plus I would really now be content because then I could focus on writing what I wanted to write, blogging, and perhaps even writing for Christian publishers! I wouldn’t have the stress of a job; I could roam around my town instead of sitting behind a desk while looking outside the window as other people enjoyed the day. But once my son came and I became a stay-at-home mom, I continued to be restless.

Now, I resented not having a place to go because it meant I never dressed up anymore and I didn’t necessarily have to shower (other than for the sake of my husband!). I was covered in spit-up, poop, pee in the beginning. The next year I couldn’t leave my son alone for one second because he was into everything and was a danger to himself if left alone! The next year as he learned to talk, I lived day to day hearing “Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy.” This past year I have spent my days disciplining, correcting and enduring all those temper tantrums.

I was restless. I thought I would find contentment in the next stage of life. The next person. The next job. But I didn’t. I still haven’t found contentment in those things. Nowadays, if you were to ask me what I am restless for or am hoping to quench my restless thirst with, it would be having a full-time writing and speaking career using my gifts, passions and seminary training for the Lord. Surely that’s what is needed because, of course, unlike those other things mentioned this is for the Lord! It is what I believe He has called me to do!

But lately I have begun asking myself the question, “Will I find contentment and rest even in using these gifts and passions how I want to use them?” Am I waiting to find contentment until the day I have a teaching ministry? Will I feel at peace and fulfillment when I publish my first book?

The answer I have come to is “No.” No I won’t. If I can’t find rest, contentment, joy, peace and fulfillment in the Lord now, then I will never find it in these other things or people. Even if they are good things. Even if they are rendered to the Lord. So often we try to find fulfillment and joy in our service to the Lord apart from the Lord. We are too busy doing things for God that we don’t have time to spend with God. We want to serve the Master without knowing the Master. Then before long we believe we are carrying out the will of God when really we no longer know what His will is — it’s been compromised with our own will.

So this is what God has been teaching me lately and which I am still trying to learn and put into practice: I will find true contentment, joy, peace and rest in whatever stage I am in my life if I find it first and foremost in Christ. I must learn to base my own identity and to measure my worth by who I am in Christ rather than what I am doing or by how much I am doing.

Lately I have been asking myself, “Kristen, are you too busy working and looking toward the future that you are missing out on being faithful with the few tasks God has given you now?” How am I using my spiritual gifts at home with my son? Am I missing out on opportunities to teach him God’s Word and the gospel because I’m too concerned with teaching adults? Is my calling as a mom not as important as my calling as a writer? (If my answer is yes it is not as important, then shame on me!) Am I not paying attention to the needs of my husband and failing to serve him and his needs because I want to take care of others’ needs first? We — I — forget that our neighbor (in reference to the second greatest commandment) includes my husband and son! It includes those closest to me.

I must be found faithful doing the things that God has called me to now, today, or else I won’t know how to be faithful with those things in the future. Yes, by all means I am to use my gifts for God’s glory in the church and in the community now (who says you can’t do both?) but not at the cost of not using them at home or at the cost of not spending time with God. My gifts will only be as effective as my walk with the Lord. If I am not spending time in Scripture, prayer, gratitude, reflection and mediation on His Word, then my gifts will no longer be reflecting the glory of God but of me.

If you think about it, we in the United States are very narcissistic. We are obsessed with self, and because of that we get really depressed when we aren’t accomplishing something or getting recognized for our achievements. Two years ago The Huffington Post published some research about the nations with the highest clinical depression. United States came in second at a rate of 19.2%. That is really astonishing given the fact that we are one of the wealthiest nations. We don’t have to worry about being invaded or wars (too much, as they are often thousands of miles away). We don’t have to worry about major disease epidemics, religious persecution, drug lords coming into our homes and decapitating us, famine, or drought. Yet we are depressed.

Why? I really think it comes down to our obsession with self. We think by making self the most important thing we will satisfy these needs of contentment, fulfillment and joy, but the irony is that by elevating self we are destroying ourselves. We can’t give ourselves what only Christ can give us. We can’t find what we’re searching for in sinful human beings. It’s like eating chocolate to satisfy a hunger. Sure it tastes awfully good and feels good at first, but too much of it can make you downright sick and yet if you just eat one piece it makes you lust for more.

We also are depressed because we find fulfillment and identity in what we do. This is probably why Purpose Driven Life sold so well! We want to make sure we are living with purpose. But God has been bringing to my mind repeatedly that Jesus spent 30 years growing, praying, spending time in the synagogues, and preparing before having a public ministry that only lasted 3 years! “All those years wasted!” a good American might say. We cannot fathom doing “nothing” for that long. We don’t value waiting, listening, learning, preparing, and praying; in fact we consider those things as “nothing” or as accomplishing nothing. In a give-me-now culture where we basically can have everything we want with the swipe of a credit card, the opening of an app, or the tapping of a tweet, it is against our very nature to sit still and wait. To exercise patience.

But this narcissism, obsession with self, has crept into the churches and Christian communities. As E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien wrote in Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes, “When the ‘me generation’ became Christians, we baptized this egocentrism” (p. 194). Just pay careful attention to sermons and blog posts. Ask yourself, “Who is the subject of this sermon or post or article?” You can find this out easily by counting the number of pronouns/names used. How often is Jesus or God mentioned in comparison to “you”? You can also figure this out by looking at the goal — is the goal to become a better more impassioned you or for God to be glorified.

So often what I am being fed is a form of existentialism. A short definition of existentialism is “a philosophical theory or approach that emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will.” As Christians we have baptized our obsession with self and this existential philosophy and have put a Christian spin on it. Here’s the Christian spin. You are still the subject and your happiness is the goal, but God is introduced as a supporting actor to help you accomplish your life’s goal and purpose. Whereas when you read the Bible, God is the main subject and we are recipients of his saving work. Here’s another great quote from Misreading Scripture:

“The idea that we are only a part of God’s redemptive plan is hard to swallow for Christians raised to believe that if I had been the only sinner ever born, Jesus would still have gone to the cross for me. When we realize that each passage of Scripture is not about me, we begin gradually to see that the true subject matter of the Bible, what the book is really about, is God’s redeeming work in Christ. God is restoring all of creation (including me), but I am not the center of God’s kingdom work. This is a much greater thing to be absorbed with than ourselves.”

It seems so counterintuitive doesn’t it? If we want to find true self-fulfillment and joy in this world then we must “deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him?” (cf. Luke 9:23) Isn’t it against everything my culture is telling me and pulling on me to say that Jesus is the main actor in my story, not me? I am the supporting actor in my life. Let me tell you, I didn’t come to Jesus so that he could help me find my voice or make me a happier person. I came to him so that he would save me from my rottenness, my sin, and transform this dirty vessel into something more like him.

Yes, I still believe God is calling me to a speaking and writing ministry. I look forward to doing what I love the most full-time — one day. In fact I am doing some of it even now, even though it is in small doses. But I must not let my hope for the future blind me from the present. Although it’s difficult to see, what I am doing now does count. It is part of God’s greater calling for my life. I will have to answer to Him about how I treated my roles as wife and mother. Did I honor God and love God in those roles and love my husband and son like myself? Using my gifts in the church without getting paid for them does count. It does matter.

I will find contentment and joy in these things despite them because I am doing it for the Lord. My rest and joy come only from the Lord and He gives me joy for all things, mundane, dirty and not-so-fun things. My prayer is that when God is ready to use me in other ways and for other things and to move me into a new stage that I won’t regret mishandling the past and that I will do these things out of an already fulfilled, content place where God is receiving all the glory.

And if I can’t learn the lesson of contentment now, then how will I ever learn it? It’s funny that we quote “I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” (Phil. 4:13) to refer to anything and everything we want to do. I think we like this verse because it seems that the emphasis is on me and doing all things. It appeals to our American senses. Yet, read in its context we read that just a few verses prior Paul says, “…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” We must learn like Paul not to find contentment in circumstances because they so easily change; sometimes they are good and sometimes bad. But Paul is content through good and bad because God strengthens him! It is God who enabled Paul to find contentment, for Paul’s source for contentment came from the Lord.

As we learn contentment and how to find that in Christ alone, let us adopt the words of the psalmist who praises God at all times for who He is. Circumstances might not be great, life ebbs and flows, but still he praises God. “Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts!” (Psalm 33:1-3)

I find that a heart filled with gratitude and praise helps me on those days when I am feeling restless, when I am forgetting that it is Christ who gives me contentment, when I want to rush through these days that one day I will look back on wanting to return. So in these days I am finding my voice in my praises to God.

So this is my story. What is yours? What are you feeling restless about? Yes, by all means, find those things you love and do them. Use your spiritual gifts, talents and passions to glorify God. Just know that even those things won’t bring you complete contentment and joy, for that only comes from the Lord Jesus.

And how does the hymnist of Come Thou Fount answer this proclivity to wander and to be restless? He writes, “Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.”

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

20 thoughts on “An answer to a restless spirit

  1. click here says:

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    • Rosa says:

      My God I was taking notes like crazy. This was a fantastic article. The thoughts captured takes one back to the basic fundamentals of how to live a successful life in God. And yes it is interesting how we minimize the powerful things like spending time with God, prayer, gratitude, reflection, and meditation. This is a power-packed article.

      • kristenrpadilla says:

        Hi Rosa!

        Thanks for stopping by the blog and reading. I am so glad that God used the article to encourage you. Thanks be to God!

        May the peace of Christ be always with you,


  2. Amber says:

    Praise God for you! I have been asking God and seeking for the will for my life. The answer is to do the obvious. Be a mother and a wife. I too want to write but i’ve already abandoned my blog because I didn’t find contentment in it. Why? Because I didn’t have enough followers LOL! I’ve had so many different jobs each one easier to quit because I wasn’t content. It’s so strange that I’ve never seen that was the problem that I’m always seeking and wanting more and you’re right we like to be recognized for what we’ve accomplished and even recognized for what we tell people we are in the process of accomplishing. I’m going to read this post over and over again until I get it through my thick skull. But now that i’m so in debt with student loans over my seeking and wanting to achieve success through education I’m like now what Lord? Because I know I never sought him in the first place re: loans and now I want HIm to bail me out. The sad truth is most of my life has not been truly been about seeking HIm it’s been about what can He do for me to help me achieve my goals. The questions have been, ” Lord which road should I travel? My will or My will? That’s why I’ve been feeling so restless in my spirit. This post has really helped me. It was the answer I’ve been asking God for even though in my selfishness I refused to ask the right questions. One more thing, while reading your post it reminded me about how many people I turned away (neighbors, potential play dates for my kids, friends) because I was sooooo busy. Busy all the time. Too busy to notice that in my quest to achieve I ignored who God had placed right in front of me. It was like I was saying “Lord use me to help others,” and I was expecting a big platform LOl and the mom standing right next to me at my son’s school who didn’t know Jesus and told me she stopped going to church. Not her though where’s the recognition in that?

    oooooh! Good stuff Kristen!

    • kristenrpadilla says:

      Hi Amber! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your heart. It is difficult to be honest and vulnerable with yourself and others, but I believe we all share similar struggles. I still do! Every day God invites me to find true contentment in Him and not in other things or people. It’s amazing the joy God gives when our identities become lost in Christ. Praying for you, Amber, as I hope you will pray for me!

  3. Dora says:

    Oh dear! I am so touched and inspired and i am convinced now more than ever that the Spirit of God is one. I live in Nigeria, a stay-at-home mom working a part-time job. I had been planning to move to a larger city for better job prospects but have been feeling this urging to seek God for who He is. Lately, I have been so restless feeling i should do more because I am created for more. Point is, reading this post makes me wanna sit “stiller” at His feet.

    • kristenrpadilla says:

      Hi Dora, Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story! I was a stay-at-home mom working a part-time job for four years. I understand that feeling so well. It’s hard (still hard for me) to enjoy the moment and be grateful for where God has placed us. I pray you will be reminded of God’s love for you and his purpose for you in the valuable work you are doing now even if it doesn’t feel that way at times. You are doing a great job, dear sister!

  4. LB says:

    Thank you for an encouraging article – I feel restless a lot in recent years, keep thinking the next thing will sort it out etc, maybe God has me where I am to teach me contentment. I’m not a great learner though!!!!

    • kristenrpadilla says:

      Thanks, LB, for stopping by and commenting! I know, right? Life sometimes feels like an endless waiting period. It’s even more difficult when we live in a western country that places a lot of value on doing and achievement. I found such freedom even living in England for 6 months where there was a greater emphasis on relationships. However, in the midst of whatever situation it is, God sees you and is with you. And the God who has called you loves you and is faithful. Yours, Kristen

  5. Sherie says:

    Yes some how I lost focused on this simplicity but yet so big part of living…And have been consumed with the I have to accomplish this now or never attitude while all the while neglecting what’s most important…My child and first and foremost Jesus!! Thanks so much for this,it blessed me!!

    • kristenrpadilla says:

      Hi Sherie, Thanks for stopping by. I’m so glad God used this to encourage you. I’m having to be constantly reminded that his grace is sufficient. Blessings to you and your family!

  6. Ivonne says:

    Can I just say how amazingly beautiful you are at writing! I felt overwhelmed with conviction reading this because I too am guilty of wanting to rush past the current stage of my life to get to the ‘exciting bit’ such as, one day getting married and being a mother. I commend you for this, outrageously inspiring xx

    • kristenrpadilla says:

      Hi Ivonne! I apologize it has taken me a while to respond. You are so gracious to leave this encouraging word. If I have said anything good and of value, then praise be to God. I am glad to hear how he uses our feeble words for his purposes. I still haven’t “graduated” or “mastered” this issue of wanting to rush past the present for something greater but God is merciful and patient with me as he is with you! Blessings to you. Kristen

  7. apphia says:

    I’m a 19-year-old from Singapore and I’m so thankful to God for leading me here. And seeing all the comments of people from all walks of life that commiserate with you (and therefore indirectly with me as well!). Basically, all I googled was “restless Christian” as that’s how I’ve been feeling for some time. I wasn’t expecting much, but I was led to your site and introduced to a whole bunch of others who have felt the same way! Life in Singapore is really busy, and what with church commitments and schoolwork, I had just been rushing here and there to this project and that event for the year 2017. However, now I’m having my holidays and this rest somehow seems a little too empty. It’s now that I realise I’m never satisfied- always longing for rest when I’m busy, and to fill up my rest days with more work!
    I had also come to the conclusion that I should find my rest and happiness in the Lord alone. (Psalm 16:11) Although I was quite convinced of this- that I have been seeking excitement and fulfilment from things apart from God- I somehow have little or no motivation to quieten down and be still to spend time with Him.
    Thanks to this blog post, though, I feel a lot less alone and even more convinced of the incomparable joy I can experience just by being like Mary and sitting at Jesus’ feet. Thank you for your encouragement and I hope my little sharing has encouraged you too! The church universal is truly a blessing, and this also reminds me of 1 Cor 10:13; what I face is not unique to me!

    • kristenrpadilla says:

      Hi Apphia! Thanks for reading and pausing to let me know how this post encouraged you. What you describe is similar to life in the United States. I didn’t realize how busy life was until we moved to England for 6 months back in 2014, and the pace of life was much slower. In the US, there’s so much emphasis on work and production to the extent that if you aren’t working or producing you are lazy. Like what you describe in Singapore, we struggle with knowing how to rest.
      But even with physical rest, which is so important, life lived apart from God will not produce the kind of rest needed for our souls.This is a lesson I, too, am continuing having to learn. But time spent in God’s Word and prayer brings so much freedom in the Lord and contentment in whatever situation we find ourselves in!
      Thank you again for your encouragement. I pray that you will walk in the peace and love of the Lord and that you will find rest in Him all your days. Blessings to you!

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