Remaining in Restlessness: A Review of The Gift of Restlessness

June 6, 2023
Author: Casey Tygrett
Publisher: Broadleaf Books
Publishing Date: April 25, 2023
Pages: 163 (Paperback)
ISBN: 978-1506483566

As someone who is often restless in the present moment—either looking longingly at the past or expectantly at the future—I began this book with an expectation that it might transform the way I see my own restlessness. Casey Tygrett defines restlessness as “the state of being irritated or unsettled by the present-tense realities of our lives.”1 Restlessness is feeling stuck in the present moment—unable to go back to the way things used to be yet unsure about what the future holds. How can I view this ‘state of being’ as a gift? 

Restlessness positions us in the dark place, or what some call the wilderness. Like Moses, we often find ourselves in the wilderness which is simultaneously unsettling and infused with the fiery bush of the Divine. Because God is present with us in the wilderness and because the wilderness is often our greatest teacher, Tygrett encourages us to simply remain in the restlessness. Remaining with a purpose is a chance for us to ask the hard questions, to dig into the present tense, and to encounter the Spirit in the wilderness.

Where Do I Belong?

Throughout the book, Tygrett identifies six questions that we often ask when we are restless. The first is “Where do I belong?” Restlessness can settle in when the places we considered home are no longer home; we graduate from the college that was home for 4 years, we leave the church body that was home for our entire upbringing, or we move from the city that felt like home. These places of “home” were the ones we went to when we felt restless, so what happens when we move on? Tygrett says, “Christian spirituality reminds us that we carry within us a constant home, an unshakeable Belonging2.” There is a difference between lowercase belonging and uppercase Belonging. Even when we do not belong, we Belong because the presence of the Divine is with us no matter where we are. Even when our places of belonging change throughout our lives, the fact that we Belong never does.

“Even when our places of belonging change throughout our lives, the fact that we Belong never does.”

What Am I Here For?

This second question, “What am I here for?” is one I imagine a new college graduate asking as they start their first full-time job. I imagine a fresh empty-nester couple asking this as their role as parents has changed. I imagine the newly retired individual asking this as they no longer drive to the job they worked for 35 years. No matter who we are, we are all longing and searching for purpose. As we restlessly consider and pursue our purpose, Tygrett reminds us to consider our purpose not as what we do, but as what we love. Our purpose is to participate in God’s dream that love would rule and reign in all aspects of creation. When we pursue this purpose, we do not have to fret about finding the “right” calling or choosing the “right” plan. Rather, we can see so many things as opportunities to participate in God’s plan. When we remain in our restlessness and allow it to teach us, we find our purpose of loving and being loved.

Is There Enough?

Restlessness can arise when we ask questions like, “Do we have enough money to pay our bills this month? Are we getting enough sleep to parent our newborn? Do we have enough space to house our growing family?” Tygrett encourages us to remain in these spaces where we ask “Is there enough?” Because if we remain, we can explore the unsettled space and find contentment as we wait with the Divine. In the in-between space of “we need more” and “we might have too much,” we can be spiritually transformed. So much of Jesus’ ministry was rewiring pathways in his followers’ minds, for example, Jesus often said, “You have heard it said…but I say to you.” We need some of this rewiring when it comes to our mindset on what is enough. A mindset of abundance rather than scarcity “leads us to a non-anxious posture toward the world.”3 As we sit in silence and solitude with the Lord, we are reminded that God must be enough.

Can Things Be Mended?

The fourth circumstance that Tygrett names as a catalyst for restlessness is when “we are suspended between the wound, the desire for healing, and the belief that healing is nearly impossible.”4 Perhaps we have been hurt deeply by someone and we wonder if the relationship could ever be mended. Or we have been the one to hurt someone and we wonder if forgiveness is ever possible. Tygrett says, “God waits between our longing for forgiveness and our cynicism and there speaks quietly in ways that will mend both us and the world.”5 Jesus is very much in the business of forgiveness—telling Peter we should forgive 490 times. This absurd number tells us that forgiveness is not a one-time transaction, rather, it is a way of life. Jesus invites Peter and all of us into a lifelong posture of forgiveness and grace. If we change our mindset around forgiveness from a transaction to a posture, we might be able to love and mend the broken things. 

“If we change our mindset around forgiveness from a transaction to a posture, we might be able to love and mend the broken things.”

Will We Be Protected?

When I feel unsafe, I feel the most restless. Being in the dark and hiking in grizzly country are two moments that cause me restlessness due to feeling unsafe. Tygrett wants to challenge readers by asking, “What if those moments actually have the potential to heal, rescue, and restore us.”6 Our restlessness related to safety is a signal of something far greater. If we remain in the restlessness, we can address why we have pursued safety at all costs and wonder if we have missed out on opportunities for spiritual transformation because we have avoided certain places and circumstances. 

Can We Be Rescued? 

There can be many moments in our lives that cause us to feel helpless: we begin to age and aren’t able to do the things we once could, a health crisis arises and it seems like there is no way out, or the family calendar is so busy that there is no time to clean the dishes or fold the laundry. We are stuck, helpless, and wondering who will rescue us. The gift of restlessness in these moments is that when we have mistakenly departed from firmer ground and cannot see our way to the future, we come to know our true dependence and need.”7 In our helplessness and in our surrender, God meets us and moves us toward rescue. 

In The Gift of Restlessness, Casey Tygrett challenges us not to fight, flee from, or flop in response to our feelings of restlessness, but to remain so that we might encounter the Spirit’s work in us. As he concludes, Tygrett says, “We learn that even restlessness has a gift if we choose to wait in the wilderness to see it bloom in full. In whatever may come, we can trust that the Divine waits for us and with us in restless places.”8 Upon finishing the book, I still inhabit restless moments, but I can now recognize them as gifts; moments of spiritual and emotional growth. Because as Tygret says, “In the dark that deepens, we are forced to ask the questions that draw us deeper and deeper into the life of the Spirit, the life of the Divine.”9

“In whatever may come, we can trust that the Divine waits for us and with us in restless places.”

Casey Tygrett

In our restlessness, we encounter the truth that we Belong. In our restlessness, we find our purpose to pursue love. In our restlessness, we find enough. In our restlessness, we find that forgiveness is a life posture. In our restlessness, we find what it means to be safe with God, and in our restlessness, we encounter God who rescues us from helplessness. 

About the Author
  • “Anna Mooers is originally from Sioux Center Iowa, graduated from Dordt University in 2020, and studies at Western Theological Seminary pursuing her Masters of Divinity. Anna currently lives in the west valley of Phoenix, Arizona with her husband Danny who teaches high school English. Anna is in the midst of Clinical Pastoral Education at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center; interning as a hospital chaplain and hoping to pursue chaplaincy as a career. She enjoys long summer road trips filled with hiking and camping, getting immersed into a good book, and long phone calls with family and friends."

  1. pg. 4  

  2. pg. 31  

  3. pg. 77  

  4. pg. 93  

  5. pg. 94  

  6. pg. 110  

  7. pg. 133  

  8. pg. 150  

  9. pg. 11  

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