3.28.2011

I Can't Get No Satisfaction


It is not uncommon for Christians to observe dissatisfaction in the lives of non-Christians as evidence of the "God-shaped hole" in their hearts that they are trying in vain to fill with something else that doesn't fit. Those who have not placed their trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior, so the argument goes, are desperately seeking satisfaction and not finding it: not finding it in casual sex, or worldly accomplishment, or material goods. Not even finding it in seemingly good things, like family or love or public service, may be even sadder still, and validation of the worldview that says that only God satisfies.

All well and good. I have nothing bad to say against such a line of thinking. However, what I often perceive is the opposite: it is those around me who are satisfied, and I who believe in Jesus dissatisfied. Let me explain, though, that far from contradicting my statements above, this is actually confirms them.

The rub here is whether there is anything more to our existences than this earthly life. If this is all there is, then many around me have peace with that and go on to live happy lives, filling them with experiences and pleasures to content their hearts. If there is any thought about the consequences of our present behaviors on if or how we will exist after we die, whether a vague understanding or a sharply vivid one shaped by a particular religious persuasion, it is usually the sense that if we are generally good people then we will be alright. (Of course, there are some who are very religious, have a clear opinion on the afterlife, and live their lives consistent with that worldview, but they are in the minority.)

I think differently. For one, I believe in a God who has standards, who judges fairly based on how we live on this side of eternity, and who has been clear about His own character and the conduct He seeks from those He has created. And, though I believe in the assurance of redemption through the saving work of Jesus through the crucifixion and resurrection, it does not remove from me the dissonance between a holy God and my own unholy life. Resultingly, part of me is at ease as I consider my secure status as one forgiven, but part of me is (I think correctly) not at ease as I consider the difference between how I ought to live and how I actually do live.

For another, I am not like many around me who seem generally satisfied with their lives, with the ways they spend their time and money, and with the things they derive pleasure from. With eternity in mind, I often feel the dissatisfaction of life on this side of glory. As John Piper says in his book, "The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God's Delight in Being God," there is a threefold frustration in man's earthly existence: we lack things perfectly worthy of taking pleasure in, we lack the ability to perfectly take pleasure in them, and we are constrained by our finiteness in taking pleasure in them long enough.

And so while I am, on one level, content and grateful and happy and rich, I am on another level profoundly dissatisfied. For I know that one day, the limitations Pastor Piper references will be gone: we will see God, supremely worthy of adoration, face to face; our bodies will be transformed so that we can take in that delight without any flaw; and we will be free to do so forever. And so the reality of those limitations keeps me from being completely satisfied on this side of glory.

Maybe you are a Christian and think me overly heady, or dour, or even blasphemous. Maybe you believe in another faith and find my musings narrow-minded or ignorant. Maybe you are of no faith and diagnose me as depressed or repressed. Maybe you are right. I have a long way to go until I am correctly satisfied where I ought to be and dissatisfied where I ought to be. Until then, I press on, and muse along the way.

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