Creating unrest can be good. I’m not talking about creating civil unrest or relational unrest or political unrest. I mean personal unrest. We work so hard to be free from personal unrest- to create a place of comfort and ease- that we forget the danger that lays there. Job saw the danger. He said, “Men at ease have contempt for misfortune” (Job 12:5).
It is true. People who find themselves at ease forget the turmoil caused by misfortune. They somehow affix blame to misfortune. From that posture, it is easy to look down on those who are experiencing hardship as if their misfortune was their own fault. The thought is that they are doing it to themselves or not being vigilant with what they have been given. Or, in the case of Job’s friends, it is easy from a posture of ease to look upon those who experience difficulties as having something spiritually wrong with them- not praying hard enough, not having enough faith, possessing unconfessed sin in their life, experiencing God’s judgment upon them, etc.
It is simply true. “Men at ease have contempt for misfortune.” So, how do we combat falling into that trap? One simple thought not easy way is to place yourself in a place of good, planned unrest. From that posture, contempt for others’ misfortune is not the natural tendency. If you embrace misfortune, you are less inclined to find place for accusation.
In fact, the Bible advocates placing oneself in a place of good, planned unrest. People are admonished to sell their possessions and give to the poor (Luke 18:22), deny themselves and take up their cross (Luke 9:23) and otherwise live in a way that demonstrates they are not married to the things of this world, but to things of God (James 2:5). That is an intentional state of unrest. Jesus did it himself. That is what incarnation is about- identifying in physical ways with the people we serve. And, we are to serve the poor.
A very regular activity of good unrest is the unrest caused by “fasting.” In fasting, we put ourselves in a place of beneficial discomfort. In fact, self-discipline (considered a virtue and spiritual fruit) by its very nature requires saying “No” to something to which we would otherwise say “Yes.” It is good unrest. It contains an element of self-denial at its core.
But, in our culture two things become obvious in relationship to this discussion if we look around us. First, not much unrest is being intentionally created at all. Few people fast, deny themselves, sell what they would consider important or give sacrificially to the poor. There just is not a healthy, Biblical perspective of “good unrest.” And second, as Job might predict, there is a very visible theology in our culture that floats around where people experiencing misfortune are treated with at least modest contempt by those who are at ease. Job is right. And, if we are not careful, we can live out the worst of it as Job’s friends did. If you listen carefully in even our church world, you will hear people say, “If they prayed in faith” or “There must be unconfessed sin in their life” or “If they were more responsible” or “God is not honored by their situation” or “they created this situation for themselves.”
Such faulty theology will never be addressed by books or teaching. It is addressed when Christians see the fruit of good unrest and choose live there. Please understand, I clearly believe that God blesses us, oftentimes materially and physically. I clearly believe that God answers prayer. I have seen miracles dozens if not hundreds of times. I know that God removes distress from his people. I have memorized Psalm 91 and Luke 10:19 and Proverbs 12:21. However, I am committed to not allow myself to be in a place where Job’s friends found themselves- in error (Job 42:7). I will find places of good unrest (fasting and sacrifice) which puts me in good places in my walk with God, and which oddly and often leads me to and sustains me in peaceful rest (Matthew 11:28). It helps me see God, myself and others in a very good light.