I recently read an article that blames Facebook for the modern plague of discontent. After all, Facebook ceaselessly shows us friends sailing the Caribbean, their “perfect” kids sitting atop the honor roll, and their pictures of lavish meals in fancy restaurants for exorbitant prices. Or the mansions of the rich and famous rub our faces in the mud. And our hearts whisper, “If only….”
Others argue that it is the media that fuels our gloom:
Marketers have turned television into an instrument of dissatisfaction. The shows bring an idealized, expensive world into the homes of people who can’t afford it. And the ads remind everyone that their lives are incomplete and unhappy—unless …. (Seth Godin)
It’s not that everything in our lives is bad (after all, we live in the safest, healthiest, and most prosperous time in history, even amidst COVID), we just wish our circumstances could be a smidgeon better:
- If only I could lose twenty pounds.
- If only I could work just thirty hours a week;
- If only my spouse (or boyfriend or girlfriend) really listened to me instead of preaching at me.
While Facebook and the media intensify our discontent, Scripture says the human heart has an almost unlimited capacity to rest our hopes on the tiniest improvement in circumstances. But, as one spiritual writer put it:
The terrible fallacy of the last hundred years has been to think that all a person’s troubles are due to his environment. That is a tragic fallacy. It overlooks the fact that it was precisely in Paradise that mankind fell. (Martyn Lloyd Jones)
Our “If Only’s” Won’t Satisfy
Cynthia Hymel lived in New York in the 1970s. She knew actors while they were still bussing tables and driving cabs, but she also knew them after they became famous. She wrote:
I pity celebrities. No I really do. Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Barbara Streisand were once perfectly pleasant human beings. But now their wrath is awful.
You see, Sly, Bruce and Barbara wanted fame. They worked, they pushed, and the morning after each of them became famous, they wanted to take an overdose. Because that giant thing they were striving for, that something that was going to make everything okay, that was going to make their lives bearable, that was going to provide them with personal fulfillment and happiness, had happened.
And they were still them. The disillusionment turned them howling and insufferable. (The Village Voice, January 2, 1990)
Even the world knows that we are the worst judges of our deepest needs. The “If only’s” of our hearts deceive us. Sure, new surroundings satisfy for a week or a month, but soon another “If only” will raise its hoary head, and roar, and turn us howling and insufferable.
We Need Something Else
Hidden in Cynthia Hymel’s article was this little line:
I think when God wants to play a really rotten practical joke on you, he grants you your deepest wish and giggles merrily when you realize you want to kill yourself.
But the real God says to us, “I am not going to play that rotten joke on you.” It is precisely his mercy that withholds so many of our “If only” prayers. He knows us. He arranges circumstances, and even sufferings, to drive us into our only real need. Through sun and storm, God is actively working on what Augustine proclaimed:
Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.
The Springs Church in Colorado Springs has asked me to offer a Hearing God conference in their church building. The Hearing God conference bridges the gap between solid biblical theology and practical application. It’s purpose is to help you know and experience the limitless ways God speaks, to fuel Intimate Theology with the personal Word who became flesh; to hear His voice.
You’ll be led in a mixture of teaching sessions and small group interactions as you learn to recognize the voice of God. This conference is for both men and women and will be held October 15th (Friday night) from 6:30-8:30pm and October 16th (Saturday) from 9:00am-5:00pm in our auditorium. Your registration fee of $40 per person or $70 per couple will include light refreshments on Friday evening, lunch on Saturday, and a Hearing God in Conversation book.
Click here to register: Hearing God Conference