Friends and family,
My heart is heavy for many you out there. As I’ve gotten to know many of you, I’ve found most of us aren’t living joyfully. In fact, many of us our constantly strained. We find relief in moments here and there — but overall, life is immensely difficult. May it be physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual — we’re all always up against something that feels bigger than are we.
I’ve shared with a few of you that since I turned 18, each year has brought exponential growth and learning as compared to the previous year (as I’m sure many of you can relate to). This has held true for about 9 straight years. Sometimes, I fathom what this will look like when I’m 70. Will it still carry strong? And how did Solomon handle the weight of such great wisdom into his late years? This is a mystery to me.
Well, I’d like to think each year of adulthood has brought about a theme. To name a few I think you might identify with:
- finding our own religion
- understanding forgiveness
- discovering identity
- pulling out old roots
Last year was the toughest yet, and to no surprise. It was a year full of incredible internal dialogue — and attempting to create space for our Father to inject His voice into those conversations. Needless to say, this is a lifelong experience, but I believe this to have occurred under the finest microscope last year. To those who shared parts of the year with me, thank you. I needed all of you.
This year I have one focus: to be a man resolved. Yet, there are times I still find myself weighing against some of the old battles, struggling against things I believed to have been buried long ago. And I know I’m not alone in this. The constant theme I’m hearing and seeing among young adults is dissatisfaction. We are constantly dissatisfied! And why?
We were not made for this world! Oh how there’s comfort in this. If you feel a little out of place, a little like the odd duck out, a little like you don’t belong…it’s because you don’t! And neither do I. Thank you Jesus. This isn’t our home. We’re always searching for more — and never find it. There are countless songs written of this. Think of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” by U2, or “Something’s Missing,” by John Mayer. But I think Switchfoot really hit it on the nose in, “Beautiful Letdown”:
It was a beautiful let down
When I crashed and burned
When I found myself alone unknown and hurt
It was a beautiful let down
The day I knew
That all the riches this world had to offer me
Would never do
In a world full of bitter pain and bitter doubt
I was trying so hard to fit in, fit in,
Until I found out
I don’t belong here
I don’t belong here
I will carry a cross and a song where I don’t belong
But I don’t belong
So, we’re not made for this world! There’s comfort in that. But to be quite frank, I’m painfully tired of being dissatisfied and I don’t care to stumble through life always down. What’s more, I don’t believe we were created with the notion of being void of joy and full of pain (and I think you might agree). So why is it that we all are where we are, constantly finding ourselves where we don’t want to be?
We all have our one thing, you know. The thing that, if we find it, we know things will get better. If I could only…
- be debt free
- find the ‘one’
- have kids
- have better kids
- get a promotion
- get healthy
- get a week of rest
- find a community
- other #firstworldproblems
And yet, we all know something about getting that one thing: it’s not going to fix a damned thing.
Somewhere deep inside, we all know nothing can quench our insatiable thirst. Most of the time we ignore this truth, because we want something to hope for. That keeps us going. And when we’re feeling a bit more spiritual, we are willing to admit that God really is the only person who can satisfy our thirst.
But still, we have trouble feeling content. Why? Is…God not enough? Certainly no! But I believe our understanding of who He is and how He satisfies us might play into it. We often stop short at saying, “Well, God is enough!” We hardly dig into what that means. Listen to what John Mark McMillan, my absolute favorite lyric composer, has to say about his desire for God to meet and satisfy him,
Come closer, closer to me
Find me broken, find me bleedin’
‘Cause I need more now than a fairy tale
A god who lives in a book
I need someone real
So would you come?
Would you come?
If I begged you
Would you come
Closer to me now?
Son of David, do not pass me by
‘Cause I am naked
I’m poor and I’m blind
Son of David, don’t pass me by
‘Cause I am naked
I’m poor and I’m blind
Do you get the impression that John Mark is satisfied? Certainly, not! But, this is the same guy who wrote “How He Loves Us” which opens with:
He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I Realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me
So heaven meets earth like a sloppy
Wet kiss and my heart turns violently
Inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way
…That he loves us…
How can we go from crying out for God to meet us, to sloppy wet kisses (all in the same album, albeit)? I believe John Mark demonstrates some crazy awesome leadership in something that we as a culture are pretty stinky at: admitting when we don’t feel like God’s meeting our needs. It feels like hypocrisy to suggest that He’s not enough, and yet we all end up sometime or another in a dark place we don’t want to be…eating oreos on the couch late at night watching infomercials, or worse yet — simply staring at a blank wall.
So where’s the disconnect? If God is enough, why do we hit those moments of such darkness? Is it because He has abandoned us? I strongly believe not. I believe my focus has often been,
Who satisfies us?
The answer is clearly God. Jesus. Father. Holy Spirit. Creator. Lord. Savior.
I could probably write a 20 page thesis answering this question, without even needing to consult the internet or a Bible. I’m trained (in a very good and healthy way) on why Jesus is the answer to that question. But here’s the question we hardly dig into,
How does God satisfy us?
To be honest, I’m not sure how well I could answer this question. If we were sitting in a room together, I’m sure we could get about 8 popcorn style answers across the room. We might hear things like,
- He is our provider…
And these would be good’ish. But, these are mostly qualities of who He is and not how He satisfies. The answer to “how does Jesus satisfy us?” is just as important as “who satisfies us?”.
I would love to hear each of your thoughts on how He satisfies, as I clearly don’t have the answers. Just as I’m sitting here, penning these words, the first thing that comes to my mind is creation.
He satisfies us through His creation.
Yep. His creation is beautiful. This is kind of a cheating answer because everything is creation! Beauty, mountains, seas, puppies, sunshine, rain, people, laughter. These are all parts of His creation that we get to see and experience every day. I love finding God in each of these things. I love seeing the personality of my dog Bailey when she throws her toy on my face in the morning while I’m still sleeping, simply because she wants to play. What’s more is knowing that God didn’t just create this personality; rather, this playfulness is a reflection of His playful personality! And so you may ask, if creation is all around us — and it is all around us — then how can we then still be dissatisfied?
I’ve hiked many mountains looking for God, knowing that I will ultimately find Him. I will see and feel His great power in the midst of the valleys and the peaks. On weekends where I know I’m mega-introverting, I’ll purposefully get out on a mountain just to meet Jesus. He always shows up. But sometimes, that’s still just a momentary satisfaction. Then I feel empty again. So, I turn to Paul’s encouragement to the church:
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. II Corinthians 4:16-18
It seems clear that much of what we experience is only momentary. So how do we keep our fuel gauges up? Do we just constantly require more and more to keep from running on empty? When is it ever enough?
It’s really never enough. That’s because we’re missing something pretty important: the rest of creation. God created much more than is here on Earth — things we can’t see and feel with our eyes and hands. This is what I like to think of as Kingdom. Everything that is good which is not yet seen, not yet heard. We all know that Kingdom is out there. We know it is coming at some point. Here’s something that’s provided great comfort to me in times of discouragement:
God had a perfect plan in mind for creation. He thunk up gravity, light, cold, sight, smell, laughter. He thought of a lot of good things that we take for granted. But it’s not yet complete. There are a few key pieces missing — kind of like when a puzzle is nearly finished, but you can’t quite tell yet what its going to show, because you’re missing those core center-pieces. Well, we’re missing those center-pieces.
This is why we have this thing called faith. We believe in something that is not yet here. Not yet heard. Not yet seen. The Holy Spirit is our conduit into receiving a fragment of the rest of creation: an intimate relationship with Jesus, power over super-natural forces, unexplained joy, deep and rich community. These are the things I find myself desiring and not having enough of.
I’ve come to a place where I’ve realized that the point of life isn’t to always have enough of these things. It’s not so that we can always be surfing on that high. Nor is it to force us to experience the bad, the lows,the darkness. Life is incomplete because we don’t have the full picture. And so it just..is.
I don’t believe there is a ‘Secret to Happiness’, as the Will Smith films depicts, nor am I filled with hopelessness. Rather, I believe that life will continue being a journey, and at times, a difficult one. I’m not setting my gaze on avoiding the pitfalls. I know there will be days ahead that I just want to hit the fast forward button on. But that’s really okay. Here’s what I will not do though:
I will not let the enemy, nor any force, power, nor people, organization, nor country, nor event — I will let nothing cause me to be void of hope. That is my faith. I may sulk on my couch on those late hard nights, but I’ll do so knowing somewhere deep inside, that I have hope. Hope is what gives rise to life. Hope is what keeps us going friends. Hope, through faith, that there is in fact more. And we must strive for it. There’s nothing else to do. This isn’t a call for artificial happiness, fake smiles, nor putting on a mask to make people think everything is okay. Those things are the worst.
This is a call for hope, because hope friends, is all we have. I implore you to hope with all you have — with all your strength — pray for hope. Live for hope. Breathe hope. Speak hope. Spread hope. With great prejudice, kill off anything that opposes hope. Pursue hope, friends. Pursue it will all your being. So long as we are unwavering on this endeavor, we cannot be silenced nor silo’d. We are not alone so long as we have hope. So cling tightly, for there are those who wish to steal it from you. And they come at you without mercy.
I love the brevity of King Solomon’s articulation of hope in Proverbs 13:12. It’s a swift reminder to me to never lose hope, because the consequences are always paralyzing. So when I find myself losing hope, I remind myself of this very truth,
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick. It makes the heart sick. I don’t know about you, but my heart has felt sick before, and I can tell you, that feeling is always accompanied by some sort of hopelessness. Life without hope is torture. The enemy is always seeking to ruin hope for us. So, our battle is always to preserve hope. As Paul puts it so clearly in Romans Chapter 5:1-5,
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Go with hope, friends, because there’s simply no other way. Go with hope and be encouraged, for you have hope, and you are hope.