by Jonathan Falwell
About a year ago I watched a documentary about a couple who had devoted their lives to climbing mountains. Reaching the top of peaks was their single driving passion in life, and they were good at it. They had spent years training. They owned all the latest technological gear—air tanks, high tech ropes, ice axes, and crampons. They were muscled and sinewy, and they ate only healthy foods. Every year they planned out their schedules based around which stratosphere-scraping summits they intended to climb—K2, Makalu, Annapurna, and more.
As I watched the show, I found myself respecting what they did. Their lives revolved around a different sort of adventure than most people encounter. This couple traveled to remote corners of the world and scaled the most exotic peaks on the planet. Few live like that, and the couple’s story was inspiring, to say the least.
But what got me thinking, what became poignant to me, was when the interviewer began asking the couple about why they climbed all these mountains. At that point in the interview, the couple’s tone changed and their countenance fell.
“Why do we always climb?” the woman answered the interviewer first. “Because we’re always restless.”
“We are never satisfied,” said the man. “As soon as we climb one peak, we’re always unhappy until we can climb another.”
I was struck by the unmistakable longing in their voices. As the interview continued, this couple characterized their lives as a constant search. They were no longer climbing for the sheer joy of the sport—it had become a deeper quest; they were climbing because they were searching for purpose. Each expedition became infused with this hunt for meaning. They weren’t simply climbing mountains. They were searching for inner peace.
Sorrowfully they admitted they had yet to find what they were looking for. They struggled and sweated and froze and inched their way up the sides of mountains for days and sometimes weeks on end, only to spend a few minutes on top of a mountain before they climbed back down again, shrugged their shoulders, and asked each other, “Well, what’s next?”
As I pondered this couple’s story, what saddened me was how many people’s lives are characterized by similar searches, although people might not articulate it just so. In this sense the mountain becomes a metaphor for whatever people think will satisfy their longings for significance, purpose, contentment, and meaning. The act of continually climbing is a metaphor for whatever people try to reach those goals.
I am sure you have encountered this. You can look around at your friends or acquaintances or read news stories about how people are on quests to achieve something, fix something, or obtain something. But the goal is elusive, leaving people dissatisfied. Or if a goal is reached, it often doesn’t deliver what was expected. People talk about how they are dissatisfied with their lives, always searching for a greater sense of meaning. Common statements include: “We’re always restless,” and “We are never satisfied.”
Let’s make this personal. How about you? Are you climbing mountain after mountain? When you take an honest look at your life, are you yearning for a greater sense of inner peace?
You might not want your life to be radically different than it is now; maybe you want it just a bit different.
Or perhaps you do indeed want your life to radically change— you can sense that something is deeply skewed, and it is causing you and your loved ones intense pain and sorrow.
Regardless of the degree of change you desire, you can sense that something in your life is not the way it is supposed to be, and you long to satisfy that restless feeling. You want life to work out as you hope it will.
So what’s the solution?
You could always climb another mountain—whatever your mountain is. You could buy a different car, get a new job, move to a different city, get divorced and remarried, buckle down at work and achieve a promotion, go on another diet, quit your job and try another career, try out a different exercise video, down another drink, buy another outfit, or keep looking to find that perfect someone you had always hoped you would find.
Ask yourself this: How has that worked for you so far?
Think about your current strategy to answer your inner longings. Is that strategy bringing about the satisfaction, peace, fulfillment, and sense of purpose you have been searching for? Are you truly at rest in your inner life? Have you discovered what life is all about, and is it bringing that sense of satisfaction and contentment you have always wanted?
If you can’t say yes, then maybe, just maybe . . . the solution is found somewhere else.
THERE MUST BE SOMETHING MORE
The idea of people being on a constant search for inner peace is not a new idea. Hundreds of years ago Saint Augustine described all mankind as having “restless hearts.” Augustine understood how we all climb mountain after mountain, always in search of meaning. If you have ever felt a longing for something more, you are not alone.
What might this longing look like in modern life today? Maybe, by all outward appearances, your life seems quite successful. You have a college degree, a solid job, a supportive spouse, and a couple of great kids.
But deep inside you are surprisingly uneasy with how your life has turned out. You know there should be something more to life, but you just can’t put your finger on what that is. You might not be able to articulate all the ins and outs of your restlessness, but you catch
glimpses of it when you try to answer this longing by buying more stuff—a new phone perhaps, a new shirt, a new car, another carton of ice cream. Or you crank up your schedule and get busier—you begin a new hobby or you fill your calendar to the breaking point, even with good activities like church. No matter how hard you try, nothing satisfies. What do you do?
Or perhaps there is no hiding it—your life is full of chaos. The mistakes you have made are obvious. Your spouse has left, your kids don’t talk to you, and you can’t hold a job.
Whether the mistakes were caused by you or someone else, you are hurt, and you know you need help. Where do you turn? You’ve tried self-help books. You’ve tried Eastern meditation. You’ve sat through countless support groups. You’ve searched for solutions everywhere you can think of, but you still feel hopeless. What do you do?
When you long for something more, it can feel as though you are on a constant search for an ideal. You can picture what perfection looks like or tastes like or feels like or sounds like, but you can see that what is in your life now does not line up with perfection. So you
are always on the hunt. In the end you are always dissatisfied with what you have because perfection can never be found.
Or sometimes this inner restlessness is like a never-ending search to feel better. Plenty of things regularly occur to shake up a person’s life, to give a person a sense of chaos. Perhaps a friend dies of leukemia when she is only thirty-four. Or, frowning, your boss piles up another load of work on your desk right before the start of a weekend. Or it is the end of the month again, and you can’t pay all your bills.
Regardless of where your feelings of being shaken originate, there is a very natural tendency to react to that chaotic feeling in not-so healthful ways in an attempt to immediately feel better. When life gets shaken, people pour another drink or flip to a porn site or go shopping with money that isn’t there—all in an effort to feel better.
What they really are doing is demonstrating the restlessness of their inner lives.
Restlessness shows up all the time in relationships. People are prone to believe in (and long for) the existence of fairy-tale lives. Somewhere, somehow, the happily-ever-after romances that are seen in the movies must exist. Surely, a person thinks, those relationships can be found if only I could lose some weight, my nose was straighter,
I have breast implant surgery, or my significant other would change his bad habits. People look to relationships to satisfy the deep questions within them, longings for answers about life’s purpose that go far too deep for another person to ever begin to meet.
Restlessness can show up in our emotions. Sometimes this restlessness emerges at strange times in strange ways. We find ourselves surprised at the sudden fury of anger that emerges when somebody cuts us off on the freeway. Or we can’t quite believe how a sad movie could make us cry the way it did. Or we wonder why people are so caustic when they leave comments on a blog posting.
Restlessness shows up in our eating patterns. Often when we reach for another donut or into a bag of potato chips, we are not truly hungry. We eat because we want comfort. Or we are bored. Food has always been there for us. It soothes us. It provides the lift we need to get on with our day or to wind down our evenings.
Absolutely, it’s a common feeling.
Fortunately when Saint Augustine described all mankind as having restless hearts, he didn’t leave the subject without pointing toward a solution. The full quote from his book Confessions reads this way: “Thou has formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”1
That’s the solution we want to explore. Rest—an all-encompassing term that means purpose, significance, peace, satisfaction, and an understanding of what is truly important in life. How can our restless hearts be satisfied? How can we end the cycle of always climbing another mountain, whatever our particular mountain may be?
The solution originates with a particular person in a particular stretch of time. When Jesus Christ came to earth more than two thousand years ago, He could have simply offered us salvation—period—and never done another single thing. Jesus could have chosen to be born of a virgin, live for thirty-three years in relative obscurity, die on a cross, be buried, and rise from the dead three days later, and still give us the opportunity for salvation without doing any of the things we read about in the Gospels (the first four books of the New Testament). In actuality the work of salvation was accomplished in one three-day weekend.
Yet there was more.
Much more. For three years—roughly 1,000 days—Jesus served in public ministry while on earth. He didn’t need to provide this ministry, yet He did anyway, and that is the key for us when it comes to rest. This intentionality of Jesus’ ministry implies that there is a
lot of information in the Scriptures worth grappling with. We need to understand what Jesus said and did during His 1,000-day public ministry so we can apply His teachings to our lives today.
By His modeling in that vitally important three-year stretch of time, Jesus Christ invited us to become like Him—to do similar things, to think similar thoughts, to have similar values, to live lives filled with compassion and justice and fair play and strength of character and sincerity and impartiality and integrity and much more. When we become like Jesus, we can have an incredible impact for what matters. We can also answer the longings in our own hearts. We can glorify God and fulfill our ultimate reason for living.
We can stop climbing mountain after mountain.
We can find true rest.
SO MUCH MORE TO LIFE THAN YOU THINK
This is a journey you do not need to take alone. I know what this feeling of restlessness looks like in my own life—and also what it means to answer that feeling of restlessness. I don’t know where you are spiritually, if you are a Christian or if you are brand-new to the subject. Either way, I invite you along in the process of discovery.
It is no secret that my dad was a pastor, and that I grew up in a household filled with church activities and faith. I dedicated my life to God when I was six years old, or at least I prayed a prayer toward that aim. I would say the root of my faith was real at a young age, but in many ways I was just punching the card, showing up and doing the things I was supposed to do. Honestly, my faith didn’t have much of an impact on me in my early years. It was more a list of dos and don’ts, something I was born into rather than what I was really living. Even though I had a sense of faith, my life was still restless.
Life continued pretty much in that vein until 1989. By then I had been out of college for a few years. One Sunday I was sitting in church. I don’t remember what I was thinking about, but my mind definitely wasn’t on what was being talked about in the room. I was considering my life. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t horrible. It was just okay. At the time I was working in video and film production, doing TV commercials and wedding videos—nothing earth-shattering, basically just working for a paycheck. My life wasn’t falling apart, but there was also an unmistakable emptiness to it. In honest moments I questioned what life was all about. I had friends and family, an okay car, a decent place to live, hobbies, sports, things I enjoyed doing, but I was on an undeniable quest to achieve something, fix something, or obtain something. The goal was ever-elusive for me. I had problems even articulating my restlessness. Try as I might, I found I never achieved, fixed, or obtained what I wanted. The bottom line was I was not satisfied with the way my life was turning out.
But that Sunday morning the pastor invited people to discover Jesus as never before. My mind snapped back to the message. He described how faith must saturate all we do. It is not a list of dos and don’ts, but rather a relationship with a God who cares.
You might call it an aha moment. Something clicked in me when he said that, like there was another step to this faith journey beyond praying a prayer or going to church or identifying myself as belonging to a particular group. Nothing beyond that initial realization changed in that moment. I knew there was more journeying ahead for me. The pastor talked about how a call to follow Jesus requires daily steps; it is not a one-time decision. I knew I needed to dig in and find out what these next steps were. So I began to study the teachings of Jesus Christ as never before. I wanted to know this man I knew so
little about yet who offered so much hope.
I remember one phrase the pastor said gave me much encouragement—“ There’s so much more to life than you think.” At its core, he explained, life is not about getting things. Or finding yourself. Or about any of the quests you often hear of people pursuing. Rather, the answer to life’s longings is found in the true person and work of Jesus Christ.
Without Jesus in our lives—and truly there, not simply by name or intellectual acquiescence—our hearts always will be restless. We always will be unsatisfied with our lives in this world until we find rest in Jesus Christ.
But with Him in our lives, our lives make sense. He is the answer to all our wishes for something more.
Consider this example. Jesus’ public ministry was to help us understand what true love is all about—both love for God and love for other people. When we learn to love God and put others first, the rest of life falls into place: our possessions, our ambitions, our hopes, and our dreams. Jesus modeled everything He taught, and His invitation is to make His mission our mission too.
Or consider how Jesus came to provide the ultimate solution to life’s problems. When life is spiraling out of control, Jesus said peace can be ours. Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted and to proclaim liberty to those who are bound in addictions. Jesus came to fix what is broken, to heal those people whose lives have been shattered. Jesus
is the answer to a marriage that has been ripped apart, to a child who has run away from God, to those who are faced with disease. Whatever the circumstance, He can handle the hurt. Jesus is the answer to everything that might be breaking your heart today. The
solution might not quite look like how you imagine it, but it is there, rest assured.
Or consider how Christ invited us to ultimately become like Him. If we are ever searching for what to do in life, for how to find purpose, or for how to live meaningful lives, Jesus answers those questions. When we become like Him, we can have an incredible impact on our communities. The longings of our hearts are satisfied. We glorify God and fulfill our ultimate reason for living. We are fulfilled in being able to shine His light around us on earth.
Whether you already know Jesus Christ or are just exploring who He is, this book offers the opportunity for you to meet with Jesus Christ like never before. It is a journey to understand His teachings, model your life after His example, and follow Him in a new way. It is a call to find satisfaction in the person of Jesus Christ and to live for Him.
My heart has found an answer to its restlessness in the person of Jesus Christ, and I know you can find this same peace and purpose too.
In the pages ahead what we want to do is truly get a sense of what it is that Jesus wants us to know about what He did, what He said, who He is, and what He wants us to do about that. Constantly we will be asking the questions: How does this impact us? How might this change who we are?
It would be impossible within this book to look at everything the Gospels record about what Jesus did during His roughly 1,000 days of ministry on earth, so we have created additional resources for you that can be found at this website: http://1000days.trbc.org. Here you will find videos and extra teachings about a variety of aspects of the life of Christ. There is a section called “100-Day Reading” that will help guide you through all four Gospels for yourself. If you use Twitter, click the button called “@ChristSays.” Every day you will receive an example of something Christ said that can apply to
your life. If you want to do additional independent study on the life of Christ, there are four navigation buttons: “Key Groups,” “Key People,” “Key Places,” and “Key Events.”
Yes, a study on the 1,000 days of Jesus’ ministry does take commitment on our part. If we are willing to stop and listen to the words of Christ, His teachings will take us from a place of emptiness and confusion to a place of peace that goes beyond human comprehension.
Jesus did not promise us a life free from trouble. He is called the God of all comfort—and if there were no troubles, He would not need to be called by this name. Jesus does not promise freedom from all problems, but He does promise that we will never face situations alone.
WISDOM FROM THE ZIP LINE
Why should we listen to Jesus?
Because He knows what He’s talking about. He’s the author of life.
Last summer my wife and I and our four school-age children took a trip to the beach. One day it rained and there was nothing to do. We saw an ad in the hotel lobby for a zip line adventure about forty-five minutes away, so we decided to give it a try. We drove over to the site, and they gave us a safety lesson; then we all climbed a tower that seemed a hundred feet tall.
One by one each member of my family got strapped into this contraption, then leapt from the tower and whizzed down the zip line, shouting and laughing and screaming.
My son Nicholas, who was ten at the time, wanted to go last. When his turn came, however, he chose not to go.
“I just don’t want to do this,” he said when I asked him why.
“It’s completely safe,” I said, “and a lot of fun. Are you sure you don’t want to try?”
“Well, maybe I’ll do it,” he said.
The operator hooked Nicholas up again. He crept toward the edge of the tower, then stopped and shook his head. “Nope!” Nicholas said again. “I changed my mind. I’m not going to do this.”
Again I went up and talked with Nicholas. Again I reassured him that everything would be fine. Again he crept to the edge of the tower. Again he backed out at the last minute.
A third time I talked to him. A third time he agreed to try. A third time he changed his mind and refused to jump.
By now people behind us in line were getting exasperated. I didn’t know what else to do. I knew that Nicholas would have a great time on the zip line if he would only try. No matter what I said, Nicholas just wouldn’t agree to take the leap that his mother, brother, and sisters had already taken. At that moment I glanced out of the corner of my eye and saw the operator walk over to Nicholas and whisper in his ear.
Nicholas nodded his head.
And—very suddenly—he jumped!
Nicholas shouted and laughed and whizzed down the zip line. When he got to the bottom, I ran over to congratulate him.
“Hey!” I said. “That was great! But I’m curious—what did the operator say that made you change your mind?”
“Uh, he just told me everything would be okay,” Nicholas said.
“But I’ve been telling you the exact same thing for the past thirty minutes. Why did you listen to him and not me?”
Nicholas grinned. “Because the guy knows what he’s talking about.”
In all seriousness this is why it is so important to listen to the Source of all truth, to Jesus Christ. So much of the time we are not listening to Jesus—and that is what causes all our restlessness. But Jesus knows the answer to life, and a few words from the guy who knows what He is talking about can make all the difference in life. This book studies the person at the heart of all answers. It represents the opportunity for you to meet Jesus Christ as never before. This book is a journey to know His teachings and example and grow to love and serve Him in a new way.
If you have found yourself grappling with a restless heart, what follows is a journey that can give you true rest—that all-encompassing term that means purpose, significance, peace, and an understanding of what is truly important.
This is the promise: Jesus will set you free from a life of dissatisfaction.
He will answer the longings of your heart.
QUESTIONS FOR INDIVIDUAL REFLECTION
OR SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION
1. Have you ever seen an instance where people undertake a certain activity (perhaps with great passion) because there’s an unmistakable longing in their inner lives? What was it like?
2. Saint Augustine said, “Thou has formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” How have you seen this quote to be true in your own life—whether your heart is still restless, or whether you have found rest in God?
3. Jonathan talked about how his faith began to get real for him when he discovered that there was “another step to this faith journey beyond praying a prayer or going to church or identifying [himself] as belonging to a particular group.” What was that additional step? Have you experienced something similar in your own life?
4. Jesus has been described as “the author of life” (Acts 3:15 niv). What does this mean?
5. In your most honest moments, where are you spiritually right now, and where do you want to be?