You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.St. Augustine, Confessions
Can I be grammatically incorrect for a moment? Of all my favorite quotes, I think that this is my “most favorite.” Outside of the Bible, I believe that this is the single most important sentence that I have ever encountered, and conveys a deep truth that is at the center of my faith.
I first read Augustine’s Confessions when I was in my early twenties and working for an economics consulting firm in Chicago. This famous quote is found in the very first paragraph of this remarkable book. I read these words and immediately understood myself in a way that I don’t think I ever had. This is the deepest truth of who I am, and the deepest truth of who we all are. We are not just created by God, but we are made for God, created to be in a relationship with God, and our hearts and souls are restless until this truth is discovered, until we rest in God. There is no rest, no true rest, outside of God. And the restlessness in life that we all sometimes feel is actually a gift because it compels us to keep searching for the deeper truths, until we get to the bottom, and the bottom is always God. Peter Kreeft, in his book on Augustine’s Confessions (I Burned for Your Peace: Augustine’s Confessions Unpacked), writes that: “This restlessness is the second most precious thing in the world, since it is the means to the only good that is even greater than itself, namely, the rest that comes only in God. Our homelessness, our alienation, our misery, our confusion, our lover’s quarrel with the world—this is our greatest blessing, next to God Himself.”
It is no exaggeration to say that reading Augustine’s Confessions changed my life. I eventually brought this book with me to seminary, became a pastor, and devoted my life to helping others discover the gift and blessing of finding our rest in God. I continue to turn back to Augustine’s Confessions to be reminded of so many important truths about the Christian life. But this one sentence, this one single truth found in its very first paragraph, will always be at the top of that list.
The truth of these words can be found throughout scripture, but whenever I think of this quote, I also think of the beautiful invitation from Jesus in Matthew 11:
Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.Matthew 11:28-30
There is no other place to find rest for our souls than in Jesus. This is simply the truth. Come, all who are weary, all who have restless hearts, and find your rest in him. This is what you were made for, and you will be restless until you do.
There are many translations of Augustine’s Confessions. The one that I read most recently and that I recommend is by Maria Boulding, O.S.B. It can be found here: The Confessions: Saint Augustine of Hippo.