The Gift of Restlessness: A Spirituality for Unsettled Seasons

"Reading this book feels like being in spiritual direction or on a walk with a wise friend. Affirming. Faithful. Good company in hard times."

Casey Tygrett
Broadleaf Books, 163 pages | Published April 25, 2023

St. Augustine famously wrote, “my heart is restless until it rests in you.” His declaration may have given restlessness a bad rap. What if, instead of diagnosing restlessness as a problem to be solved, we accept restlessness as a good and holy part of the Christian experience?

In The Gift of Restlessness, Casey Tygrett invites us to adopt an open-hearted posture toward restlessness, seeing it as a “guiding gift.” He affirms each restless season as a valuable and natural aspect of discipleship, to be examined and accepted, not rushed or dismissed.

With clear and engaging writing, Tygrett weaves his wisdom as a seasoned spiritual director together with insights from Scripture and religious writers like Richard Rohr and Julian of Norwich. He incorporates plenty of personal anecdotes, including some very sweet moments with his dog, Winston, who is a spiritual director in his own right. The result is a book that – even if it doesn’t offer earth-shattering insights – provides helpful language for a familiar spiritual reality. Reading this book feels like being in spiritual direction or on a walk with a wise friend. Affirming. Faithful. Good company in hard times.

The structure of the book is clear. Tygrett describes his interest in restlessness then cleverly uses the Lord’s Prayer to frame six key questions that arise in restless times: Where do I belong? What am I here for? Is there enough for me? Can things be mended? Will we be protected? and Can we be rescued? Tygrett wraps up each question with a spiritual practice to dig deeper. To Tygrett’s credit, the practices are simple enough to be doable, and wise enough to be meaningful. The introduction and first three chapters are particularly strong.

Tygrett initially defines restlessness as “the state of being irritated or unsettled by the present-tense realities of our lives … unable to go back to the way things were before but unsure about what lies ahead.” He then incorporates an awful lot under the umbrella of restlessness — perhaps too much? He includes, for instance, the fear of waiting for a child’s mental health diagnosis; his experience of major eye surgery; the public safety crisis of the 2020 pandemic; and an irreparable interpersonal rift between him and his father. While each of these experiences certainly has something to reveal about God, they are not on the same level as “boredom, dissatisfaction, or feeling stuck.” As a result of this broad view, the book loses focus; though these topics certainly merit thoughtful reflection, they distract from the overarching theme.

That being said, those who experience restlessness will appreciate Tygrett’s wise insistence that every restless moment carries the presence of the divine. It will be especially appreciated by people who are looking for a spiritual accompaniment through moments in life when they feel stuck but aren’t quite sure what to do about it. Groups could tweak the practices for group reflection, or pastors and coaches can make this book a guide to asking powerful questions as they sit with those experiencing restlessness.

As a gentle meditation on a common aspect of life, The Gift of Restlessness is a useful and loving book.

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