All Christians get “unsettled” from the gospel sometimes. We “unsettle” ourselves from finding our identity, our “OK-ness” in the always-coming grace of God to us in Christ, and shift that faith onto other things. It’s not good, but it happens. While we can’t see this shift happening, it’s useful for us to think about the outward evidences of the shift, in order to take corrective action.
What often accompanies a heart that’s dislodged from the gospel is a feeling of unsettledness. But it’s at this point that things take an unexpected turn. This feeling of unsettledness often does not lead us into out and out sin, but into greater activity for the things of God. In short, activism. Perhaps we do this because we are seeking to resolve that feeling of unsettledness by our own strength. We perpetuate, not solve, the problem: we’re resolving our shift from the gospel outside the gospel.
And all the while everyone applauds. “He is so giving! She is so willing to help out! That couple just serves and serves!” This is the sinister part of it. It’s an hypocrisy that easily goes unnoticed - to others and even ourselves. But while the church applauds, that inner unsettledness doesn’t go away, and it just asks for more and more. It’s insatiable.
What to do? Answer first two simple questions. First, where is God? He is close; go to Him. Our Lord cursed the fig tree because of its hypocrisy in not actually bearing fruit, though it possessed the “activism” of a tree - it produced leaves (Mark 11:12-14). So go to the Lord of fig trees.
But second, ask yourself, why this unsettledness? Why this unbelief?, as the song goes. Sometimes we are unsettled because some sin has taken root. We’ve done wrong, and we know it, but we haven’t brought ourselves to say it to God, to agree with Him about it that it’s sin. So then, “Have faith in God . . . Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:23-26).
So then, repent, and then repent. Repent of the sin in question. But then repent of the compensating activism. To paraphrase Carson, sometimes the most holy act of repentance is to get a good night’s sleep, leaving all our sins and weakness at the foot of a bloody cross.