What Do We Do When Lots of Other Things Seem More Satisfying Than God?

Think about all the things that you find exciting or satisfying in your life. Some examples:

  • Binging on that new Netflix series.
  • Reading that book that’s so hard to put down.
  • The appetizers at that favorite restaurant of yours.
  • That girl/guy in your class/workplace you’re finding it hard to stop thinking about.
  • Your favorite team’s next game.
  • All the interesting things you’ve got going on in your job.
  • An excellent report card (and maybe a scholarship that goes with it).
  • Your kids: seeing them reach the next milestone, thinking about their future, and so on.
  • That hobby that makes you so impatient for the weekend.

With all those things in mind, here’s a question: why is it so easy to be preoccupied with all these things, while it’s often so hard to pursue God? And for that matter, what can we do to fight against that?

There’s a lot we could think about in response, but for the moment I’d like to concentrate on one specific point. And to get at it, we need to ask a yet another question. Where do all those things that bring us pleasure and joy and satisfaction come from?

Ultimately speaking, they all come from God. The Bible demonstrates this in several places. For example, James tells us that “every good and perfect gift” comes from God (see James 1:17), while Paul tells us that he “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Tim. 6:17).

Think about that a little further. Every story that grips you in a movie or a book originates with him. All the flavors that you love, as well as the insight and skill that incorporates them into your favorite foods—that comes from him as well. The beauty and character and sense of humor in that person you’re so attracted to? Yep, God’s responsible for all those things at the end of the day. Just like he is for whatever mysterious thing it is about children that compels a parent to love and care for them even when they’re a handful.

We could go on, but the point is this: if he’s the origin of all the good things in our lives, all that we find worthwhile, what makes us think we’d be settling if we made him our greatest priority? Does it really make sense to think that we’d be giving up more by pursuing him than we’d be gaining?

Several of the biblical writers came to understand that the gifts are far outstripped by their Giver. As David puts it:

You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:11)

 

Another psalmist agrees, writing:

Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25-26)

And the apostle Paul famously declared, “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” (Philippians 3:8). No wonder he said that dying and going to be with Christ is “better by far” than remaining in his earthly life (see Philippians 1:21-25).

Think of it this way. When you find yourself in dark room because of a power outage, one small candle can be a great thing. But you use the candle’s limited, flickering light in anticipation of, and as a poor substitute for, what you’d rather have by far: a fully lit house. And in the moment when the power comes back on, the candle is completely outshone by the light from your lamps and fixtures.

Yes, many of those things we find so captivating throughout our lives are genuinely good. And we should enjoy them for what they are. But we shouldn’t stop there. We should see them as reminders and anticipations of the infinitely greater glory and worth of the one they come from. In that way, we can legitimately enjoy God’s gifts, and be encouraged to pursue him as well. And instead of being content with a candle, we’ll keep moving toward what we know to be the bright light of the full noonday sun.

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