When we were younger most of us heard an admonishment that we should “learn to be satisfied.” Now there is a wisdom in this. Life does not perfectly deliver and simply coming to accept this as a fact brings forth a certain serenity. Coming to terms with reality is often useful.
But there is a time to throw all this to the winds. We cannot simply settle down and accept the imperfection of everything. There is a time to fight against injustice and mediocrity. There is a time to rebuke and to summon to perfection. Dissatisfaction has an important place in our soul.
Ultimately it is dissatisfaction that helps us set our sights on God and heaven. The fact is that we have a dissatisfaction, a thirst that is so deep that this whole world can’t even come close to quenching it. Our thirst is infinite but the world is finite.
Jesus met a woman from Samaria at a well. She came because she was thirsty. But the Lord taught her, and us, “Everyone who drinks from this well will be thirsty again” (John 4:13). The well of course is this world which can never satisfy us for long. How could a finite world quench and infinite longing? Of course we are dissatisfied. A puny little universe can never hope to fill a God-sized hole in our hearts. And so Jesus goes on to teach her and us, “But whoever drinks the water I shall give give will never thirst for the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).
Now of course this text requires a little sophistication on our part. It’s not as though we can simply say, “Since I accepted Jesus in my heart my life is just peachy and I want for nothing.” No indeed, we know well that we still hunger and thirst for many things after meeting Jesus. But notice that Jesus speaks of the truly satisfying water that he will give as “welling up” to eternal life. So like all grace, it starts small and grows in us gradually if we let it. It starts perhaps in subtle ways, and grows at times imperceptibly. But more and more the Lord satisfies us and this world begins to lose its grip on us. Greater serenity and and a kind of stable satisfaction begin to find their place in our hearts. It grows, it “wells up.” I can say, my soul is a witness for the Lord in this truth. I have seen his power to increasingly quench my thirst.
And notice that the Lord says it wells up to “eternal life.” Now the reality of eternal life is often misunderstood. Eternal life does not mean (merely) to live for ever and ever in heaven. “Eternal” does not just refer to the length of life but, even more importantly, it refers to the fullness of life. To experience eternal life is to become fully alive forever. I hope you can also see then that eternal life doesn’t wait until we die. It will be fulfilled in heaven but it can and should begin now. And here too I can say, my soul is a witness for the Lord. At 48, my body isn’t as sound and sleek as it was when I was 28 but I must emphatically declare that I am so much more alive now than I ever was at 28. I am more joyful, more serence, more confident. I love God more, I love my neighbor more, I have seen sins puts to death and many graces and gifts come alive. As I go along I am more spiritually alive than ever before. The water of the Lord’s grace is welling up to eternal (full) life in me. If this is what the Lord has done for me from 28 to 48 I can’t wait to see what I’ll be at 68 and 88!
So, don’t just “learn to be satisfied.” Cultivate a holy dissatisfaction and let the Lord teach you that the world can’t cut it. Everyone who drinks the water of the world will be thirsty again. Notice your thirst, laugh at the world’s pathetic offers and come to the living water, Jesus. Don’t be satisfied with anything less that total fulfillment. And the Lord will get us there in time. But it doesn’t wait for heaven, it starts now.
Listen to your thirst, listen to your dissatisfaction. Do not suppress them. Cultivate them and let them speak: “I hunger, I thirst, I long.” But let the Lord translate for you the fuller meaning of these basic urges. Here is what they really say: My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” It is your face, LORD, that I seek! (Psalm 27:8). So that’s what these basic desires are actually saying, “Give me the Lord!” Maybe those desires aren’t so bad after all. Maybe they are good but somehow misdirected. Maybe it’s not really about sex, or popularity, or a new car or some creature comfort. Maybe it’s about God.