According to Rolling Stone, U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is one of the greatest songs in music history. I think a big part of its timeless appeal is that it expresses the feeling of a longing unfulfilled – a feeling many of us experience but don’t know how to put words to. You can feel the search for internal satisfaction in the song, and what it feels like when you can’t find it.
To be satisfied means to have a sense that our needs, demands and desires are being fulfilled. It has been one of the most sought-after yet often evasive goals in my life. I have many desires and needs – they range from the need to feel loved, protected, and happy to the need to feel fulfilled at work, to feel appreciated, and to feel a sense of accomplishment. When these needs are not met, I can become resentful, unhappy and unfulfilled, sometimes without even realizing it or understanding why.
In an article on the website Mind Body Green, Dr. Lissa Rankin says,
“Our entire culture suffers from what is called soul loss by some, which is a loss of meaning, direction, vitality, mission, purpose, identity, and genuine connection; a deep unhappiness that most of us have come to consider as simply ordinary.”
Maybe you don’t feel as though your soul is lost, but have you ever felt a nagging longing that doesn’t seem to be fulfilled by a job, an achievement, or even a significant other? You get that new job, or that new boyfriend, or have that baby, only to realize that while those things are great they didn’t solve all your problems. You still seem to want more – just a little more money, a little bigger house, a few more things … you get the idea. This is what the dissatisfied life feels like – always thinking “If I just had _____, I would be happy!”
The Bible also clearly describes what a dissatisfied life feels like, where it comes from, and how to find real satisfaction in any circumstance.
1. Dissatisfaction comes from how we handle our desires.
20 Neither the grave nor destruction is ever satisfied; the desires of people are never totally fulfilled.
Proverbs 27:20 (Voice)
Teacher: As the saying goes, All of our toil is food for our mouths. We eat; we drink, and yet deep down we do not feel satisfied.
Ecclesiastes 6:7 (Voice)
Unfortunately, the outlook seems bleak when we consider that our desires may never be totally fulfilled, as these two scriptures tell us. But these verses describe what I have felt in my life many times when I am not happy with my current life situation and I fight to get more. As soon as I think I have gotten what I want, I have a gnawing desire for something else. Have you ever felt that way?
The following scripture explains a bit more:
4 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
James 4:1-3 (NIV)
This scripture describes three reasons we may feel frustrated and dissatisfied:
- We desire things that we won’t ask God for
- We desire things because we envy other people who have them
- We desire things that are only for ourselves
Our desires might not be bad in and of themselves. In fact, God promises he wants to give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4). But it’s important to understand a few things – first of all, when you really want something and won’t ask God for it, you are going to feel dissatisfied.
Second, the Bible is clear that some of our dissatisfaction comes from envying what others have. Our culture often encourages the use of social media to find connection and fulfillment but sometimes these sites have the opposite effect. According to one study from the University of Michigan, there is a direct correlation between time spent on Facebook and feelings of loneliness, isolation and dissatisfaction. Other studies attribute this to the “compare and despair” envy effect of social media sites; constantly seeing other people post happy moments, achievements, and vacations can arouse jealousy and suspicion in relationships. Of course most of us don’t post our real, messy, unhappy moments on Facebook – so the highlight reel on our profile page isn’t the most accurate description of our daily life. If you’re constantly comparing your daily life with someone else’s highlight reel, it’s going to be hard to feel satisfied with what you have.
Finally, living your life only to get what you want will leave you unsatisfied. We can see this pretty clearly when we think about our kids – they might have a whole pile of gifts on Christmas morning and after they have opened them still want more. Most of us as parents logically know that while we want to get our kids things they enjoy, getting them more and more toys won’t really satisfy them. We understand that at some point we need to teach them to be grateful and enjoy what they have.
Believe it or not, it’s not so different with us as adults. When I first graduated from college, and I couldn’t wait to get started with my life and career. I always wanted to be in education, so I was going to start by teaching in an inner city school and then go on to graduate school and become an administrator. I was so excited, but as time went on, I couldn’t help thinking, “Is this all there is?” I felt like there had to be more to life than just working every day – at least I was hoping there was! I felt the grind, and I was only 21 years old.
I realized that just living for my own career and achievements wasn’t going to satisfy me. I needed something more. It wasn’t until I actually studied the Bible for myself that I learned that God is the only one who can fulfill the longing in my heart. He does it through reading the Bible and changing my desires.
2. God’s Word brings satisfaction to our lives
What I learned is that over and over again God promises he is able to satisfy my soul:
For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.
Psalm 107:9 (ESV)
You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
Psalm 145:16 (NIV)
Since God created the soul, he knows how to satisfy it. This scripture teaches that we are satisfied by pursuing a relationship with God. How does he fill our soul? The Bible is more than just a book; reading it actually brings satisfaction and fulfillment:
7 The Eternal’s law is perfect,
turning lives around.
His words are reliable and true,
instilling wisdom to open minds.
8 The Eternal’s directions are correct,
giving satisfaction to the heart.
God’s commandments are clear,
lending clarity to the eyes.
9 The awe of the Eternal is clean,
sustaining for all of eternity.
The Eternal’s decisions are sound;
they are right through and through.
10 They are worth more than gold
even more than abundant, pure gold.
They are sweeter to the tongue than honey
or the drippings of the honeycomb.
Psalm 19:7-10 (Voice)
When I lose sight of the Bible as the way to access satisfaction from God then I lose my way. It is sometimes difficult to believe that reading, believing, and relying on the Bible brings true satisfaction, but it does. The Bible teaches us the way to God and what God thinks. The Bible changes our mind and helps us see things from a spiritual and faithful perspective; your circumstances might not change but your perspective can when you read the Bible. God knows what we need more than we think we do. Reading the Bible helps us understand what he thinks and trust that our needs will be taken care of.
How often do you read the Bible for yourself? Do you read the Bible until you feel satisfied, no matter what happens during your day?
3. Changing what we want brings satisfaction to our lives
11 Instead, You direct me on the path that leads to a beautiful life. As I walk with You, the pleasures are never-ending, and I know true joy and contentment.
Psalm 16:11 (Voice)
26 And I will give you a new heart -I will give you new and right desires – and put a new spirit within you. I will take out your stony hearts of sin and give you new hearts of love. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you so that you will obey my laws and do whatever I command.
Ezekiel 36:26 (TLB)
In order to feel satisfied in my life, I have had to decide to change what I desire. Instead of insisting on what I want or think I need, I’ve had to learn to desire the things that God desires – love for others, faith, purpose, and forgiveness. That is when I find the contentment that God promises. The scripture in Ezekiel says that God will give us new desires! Good thing, because the things I chase after don’t really lead to much fulfillment.
Where do you go to get fulfillment? Do you need to evaluate your desires and align them more with what makes you truly happy? Have you thought about what you really want and whether that is going to truly satisfy your soul? The Bible teaches us how to have true fulfillment and God will give us everything we need to attain it.