by Scott Yi
" 'Don’t be afraid of satisfying [your desires] and even multiply your desires.' That is the modern doctrine of the world. In that they see freedom… Interpreting freedom as the multiplication and rapid satisfaction of desires, men distort their own nature… They live only for luxury… How can such a one fight? What is he fit for? He is capable perhaps of some action quickly over, but he cannot hold out long. And it's no wonder that instead of gaining freedom they have sunk into slavery, and instead of serving, the cause of brotherly love and the union of humanity have fallen, on the contrary, into dissension and isolation… For how can a man shake off his habits? What can become of him if he is in such bondage to the habit of satisfying the innumerable desires he has created for himself? … They have succeeded in accumulating a greater mass of objects, but the joy in the world has grown less." - from The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
I realize that, as much as I love God and as close as I feel to Him at times, I’m not where I need to be. I constantly wrestle with the dissatisfaction of a life that seems to teeter on eggshells, and all it takes is one little thing for me to lose balance, to veer from my path and have to start all over again. According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the chief end of man is “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” I think we’re all in agreement with the glorifying part, it sounds like something we can mold our lives around. But that enjoying part… in the midst of punishing ourselves with deadlines and desires, I don’t really see anyone enjoying God these days. I mean a soul-slaking satisfaction that goes beyond a fleeting moment of good cheer. A person who could actually claim to be living an abundant life. It would be such a strange sight to see anyone finding such an enjoyment in God that could satisfy any thirst and any desire. This person would either have to be a lunatic or a saint.
Jesus claimed, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). I don’t know about you, but I think it’s hard to avoid desires when you’re living in the most materialistic society that’s ever existed. One of my professors, Doug Hall, pointed out that we’re living in an era of human history that could be called "the Great Transition"—in which a lifestyle that once belonged to only the elite few has, over the course of the past century, now become the norm for the masses. Everyone has access to technology; everyone is expected to meet their needs through economic instead of relational means. Everything is attainable. So that’s what we want, isn't it--everything. And the living water that Jesus offers seems so small by comparison.
You know that feeling after a long day of work? You’re physically and psychologically exhausted, you’re ready to go home, you’re ready to unwind. I noticed that being in this state tells you a lot about yourself. In the midst of this fatigue, all pretenses are stripped away and all that’s left in your soul is your deepest desire: that one thing at the end of the day that’s going to make it all better. It’s the thing that you find the most comfort in. It’s the thing that will bring you back to life. It’s the thing that makes you so excited you can’t wait to be there. You’re thinking about it on the drive back from work, on the walk back from the library; it’s the end of your journey. So from a practical standpoint, no matter how trivial that thing is, it actually is your deepest desire. It’s what’s waiting for you at the end of the day.
Some of us are fortunate to be with the ones we love. There was a minor one-hit wonder from the 90s with the memorable line: “Everyone needs a bosom for a pillow.” I can’t help thinking how true that is. For the rest of us, we each have unique pleasures we look forward to. The more old-fashioned among us might look forward to the experience of reading a good book with a cup of tea at our side… but most of us will check Facebook and probably click on some links for the latest internet memes. Some will unwind with a video game, by catching up with a favorite television show, or having a beer with old friends. Those are good days, I think. But there are bad days, too. When the thought of going back home to an empty room is unbearable, and all that’s waiting for you is the reminder of a lonely life. It’s a strange sort of pain because it’s a pain that you don’t really feel. It’s the pain of existing. We often try to numb it with trvialities, with the nightlife and with sensual pleasures. When it comes to facing sadness, none of us are as strong as we think we are.
I realized that we don't ever get that excited by God. Sure, we pay Him a lot of lip service and might even take out time in the middle of the week to get involved in the community of faith. But to enjoy Him like He’s what I’ve spent my whole day waiting for… it seems a bit incomprehensible to have a faith like that to our modern sensibilities. To most of us, we don’t unwind with God, we unwind from God—a lot of our spiritual lives seem to be just tasks and agendas and responsibilities. Pete Scazzero, author of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, wrote that our number one mistake in the Christian lifestyle is doing things for God, instead of being with God. When I hear about leaders in ministry becoming jaded; when I turn to something else to lift me out of my funk because I implicitly believe that Jesus is too powerless to overcome the dreariness of real life—yeah, I think Scazzero is on to something.
When I get out of work, when I get out of class, I want to be excited about getting back into communion with the Creator of the universe. When I’m by myself I want to have a heart of thankfulness so big that it will squash any lingering desires for sin and spitefulness. I want to enjoy God. I want living waters. I want to end my days like the apostle John, resting against the bosom of Christ.