The Gift of Dissatisfaction

I can’t remember now where I read it but it struck me…hard.  It was a psychologist musing that the primary emotion he sees in 21st century Americans – who have such abundance, such a variety of choices, such comfortable lives – is disappointment. Life, despite all the bounty we experience in the modern world, doesn’t seem to be living up to our expectations!

The new iPhone, the new job, the new house, the new car, the new kid, the new spouse, the new lover, even the new sexual identity, once experienced, leads, more often than not, to disappointment.  Whatever it was that we absolutely wanted and needed did not measure up to its original billing…and we are left disappointed.

Often I hear Christians commenting (myself included!) that the stuff of this life that unbelievers run after will leave them sorely disappointed.  I do believe that – I  have been there and have the t-shirts to prove it!  Yet, when we are honest with ourselves, even our Christian lives can leave us disappointed.  We long for more heartfelt worship.  We long for a faith that could move a mustard seed…let alone a mountain. Our ability to hear from Him seems to get lost in the static of living life on a broken planet. Our life with God can seem rather mundane far too often.  Our Christian marriage is quite challenging at times and our friendships don’t quite reach the level closeness that we desire.

The ever-present sense of disappointment is like the background muzak of our lives – even in our moments of greatest joy we still hear its minor chording resonating in our mind’s ear –“This is amazing, but you know it won’t last, don’t you?”  And it doesn’t!  It never has and it never will, this side of eternity.

You can hear the muzak in the words of wise old Solomon (who had collected more t-shirts than I ever could!):

“All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
What has been done will be done again”
Ecclesiastes 1:8-9

You can almost hear him groaning as he speaks…disappointment dripping from almost every word.  No, this dissatisfaction is not unique to 21st century Americans alone.

Yet, this disappointment is a gift when it produces in us a groaning and a longing for what Scripture calls the “renewal” of all things.  Think about it a minute.  We will never long unless we first groan. I believe C.S. Lewis was correct when he stated that if we find in ourselves longings that nothing in this world can satisfy then that is a strong clue that we were made for something more than this world.

When Bono of U2 (a confessing Christian) belts out that he “still hasn’t found what he’s looking for!” he is merely echoing the words of Solomon and every other honest seeker throughout history.

For what we long for is not yet here.  As believers, we may catch a distant glimpse now and again.  Our taste buds, for a moment, may experience a tantalizing appetizer of the feast to come.  Our ears may hear, as from a distance, loving words of acceptance, forgiveness, grace, adoption, peace, joy, and delight – but we long for them to be enunciated more clearly and more loudly in the here and now!

Alas, not yet!  My spiritual vision is 20-400.  My grasp of truth is far from complete.  Many questions still remain.  My intimacy with my Savior is not yet consummated.  But, I do have my longing that has grown in the fertile soil of my disappointment watered by the tears of my groaning…and it is indeed a gracious gift!

So, like Paul, a fellow disappointed traveler, I press on to that which I know will ultimately not disappoint me.  Straining toward what is still ahead.  A bit less distracted by what shines and sparkles but will ultimately birth disappointment here. A bit more convinced with every step that I’m not made for here I’m made for Him!

Will you join me on the journey?

Meditation Scriptures:  Ecclesiastes; I Corinthians 13:12; Philippians 3:1-14