I love to travel and often daydream about places to visit. I’ve already mapped out detailed itineraries for trips to Germany, Belgium, and Costa Rica. Not because of any imminent plans, I just want to be ready.
There’s something about traveling that always fills me with a longing for more. I’ve spent three months in India, but there are so many towns and cities left to see. I’ve visited National Parks, but there are so many trails and peaks left to hike. I’ve walked the ancient ruins of Rome, but I want to explore the remnants of Machu Picchu.
I’m grateful for where I live, but there is so much more to the world than this little suburb in the little state I call home. There are things to see, foods to taste, cities to explore, mountains to hike, and activities to do that just can’t be experienced here. And because all people bear God’s image, there are unique ways that other cultures reflect their Maker. And I want to see it all.
While my never-ending desire to explore the unfamiliar can lead to sinful discontent, there’s a holy discontent it reflects too.
We Were Made for More
We were made to see, taste, touch, feel, and hear more than we presently do. We were made for more than relationships with those like us. We were made for more than success at our jobs. We were made for more than simple living, restless hustling, and the futile pursuits of power, influence, and wealth.
We know it, too. We might be able to hush and distract our longings momentarily, but we can’t escape our nagging craving for more. C. S. Lewis’s oft-quoted words from his classic book Mere Christianity should ring true for us all:
Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. If I find in myself a desire that no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. . . . I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and help others to do the same.1
We long for more precisely because we were made for more! But sometimes we try to hush these longings, assuming them to be sin. And though the Spirit enables us to repent of ungodly expressions of discontentment—jealousy, covetousness, and complaining—he won’t dull our hunger. Rather, he will redirect it.
The Purpose of Holy Discontent
I should humbly recognize my temptation to make traveling the world an idol. But there is something good at work in my restlessness, too. A purpose designed by God. He’s implanted specific desires within me so that I’d be drawn to him. He’s made me to appreciate his creation and the different ways people reflect his glory. He’s made me for a world and a mission so much bigger than my own home and life. I love getting lost in seas of people who don’t look like me, act like me, or talk like me because it reminds me of the glorious reality that someday I will sing praises to my King alongside people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
What nagging desires do you most often experience? What discontent have you tried to hush, not realizing that it was put there for holy purposes? Do you ache for more intimacy, long for more beauty, crave security, or yearn for adventure? All of those desires are an indicator of what God’s made you for—and someday, they will be satisfied.
Whenever our discontent points us to God—making us eager to experience his goodness on earth as we anticipate the hope of heaven—it is evidence of his own mercy to us. He doesn’t want us satisfied with anything less than what we were made for. He doesn’t want us to think this life is the end of it. It’s only the beginning. And our innate anticipation and searching will keep us going when circumstances are difficult and the pain of life in a broken world makes us groan.
Satan would love to twist our longings—to turn holy discontent into ingratitude, bitterness, and accusation—but the Spirit indwelling us is working to purify it. As the bread of life, fountain of living waters, and hope of every languishing soul, God is enough to fill us. He is the remedy to our restlessness.
God is infinitely glorious, and life with him in the new heavens and new earth will never grow dull. Yes, we will be satisfied. But satisfaction in God doesn’t placate our desires, it stirs them even more. In some paradoxical way, the more satisfied we are in God, the more we want him. By filling us with his fullness over and over again, he is always paving the way for us to treasure him more. Our desire will continue to deepen, and as it does, God will prove himself an eternal source of satisfaction.
Author’s note: this article was first published at Crossway
- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Touchstone: New York, 1996, 121.