We all suffer in this world more or less, either from anxiety of mind, or sorrow of heart, or pain of body. And nevertheless we all long for rest; we seek it eagerly; and we wear ourselves out all our lives in this search without ever attaining the object of our desires.
Where is rest to be found? Where shall we seek it? This is a most interesting question if ever there was one.
Some men, in fact the greater number, seek their rest in the enjoyment of the riches, pleasures, and honors of this life. What care do they not take to secure these things for themselves, to preserve them, to increase them, and to accumulate them?
Do they really find rest in these things? No. How would rest be found in these perishing things, which cannot even satisfy the passion that desired them; in things that have no proportion with the wants of the human heart, that leave it always empty, always devoured by a still more ardent thirst; in things that are always being disputed and envied and torn furiously by one person from another? What rest and stability can be found in things that are change itself? If the foundation on which we build our rest is always moving, is it not a necessary consequence that we must experience the same agitation?
Let everyone consult himself; experience is the most positive of proofs. What man ever tasted rest in the midst of the greatest treasures, the liveliest pleasures, the most flattering honors? Rest is not in these things: everyone knows this; and yet it is in these things that man persists in seeking it. Men exhaust themselves in desires, in projects, in enterprises, and they never succeed in finding a single moment of rest. If they would only consult their reason, it would tell them that in this way they can never find rest. What blindness! What folly!
Others establish their rest in themselves, and in doing this, they think they are much wiser than those who seek it in exterior things. But are they really wise? Is man made to be sufficient for himself? Can he find in himself the principle of his rest? His ideas change every day; his heart is in a perpetual state of unrest; he is constantly imagining new systems of happiness, and he finds this happiness nowhere. If he is alone, he is devoured with weariness. If he is in company, however select and agreeable it may be, it soon becomes tiresome to him; his reflections exhaust and torment him. Study and reading may amuse him and distract him for a time, but they cannot fill up the void in his heart. This is the kind of rest that human wisdom promises to its followers and for which it invites them to give up everything else, to isolate themselves, and to concentrate their attention on themselves. It is a deceitful rest, which is not exempt from the most violent agitations and which is at least as hard for man to bear as the tumult of his passions!
Where, then, is rest to be found, if we can find it neither in the good things of this world nor in ourselves?
It is to be found in God, and in God alone. Jesus Christ came into the world to teach us this truth, and it is the greatest lesson that He has given us. But how few there are who profit by it!
“Thou hast made us for Thyself,” cries St. Augustine, “and our heart finds no rest until it reposes in Thee.” This truth is the first principle of all morality; reason, religion, and experience all unite in proving it to us.