Originally published Wednesday, 29 May 2013.
Have you ever hoped for something and then have your hopes dashed? Perhaps it was Christmas morning as a child. A huge present lay under the tree with your name on it. You had hoped all year for that one toy you wanted most. "Could it be?" you thought. And then you opened the present to find of all things--clothes.
As adults we hope for things with the same intensity as children. We'd like to think our hopes are more realistic. Maybe even less selfish. I recently experienced a situation where I came face to face with my hopes and then watched them walk away. I left discouraged. The more I sat in my discouragement, the more it saturated my heart. My thoughts quickly spiraled and my emotions took over from there.
Have you ever been there?
Needing some encouragement, I opened a new book I had picked up at a recent conference. The very first chapter pierced my heart and convicted me of my sin.
In a Godward Life, John Piper writes that the goal of his ministry is to "make plain to others that the "steadfast love of the Lord is better than life" (Psalm 63:3). If it is better than life, it is better than all that life in this world offers. This means that what satisfies are not the gifts of God, but the glory of God." My emotional response to my dashed hopes was in fact a warning sign that I had placed those hopes above God. He wasn't the complete satisfaction of my soul. I hadn't pursued God to fulfill the deepest longings of my heart.
While it's easy to point out to children when they've made toys an idol of their heart, it's a lot harder to see it in yourself. We look at our desires and point out how good they are. After all, isn't having a successful ministry a good thing? Isn't having a good job important? How about wanting our children to be healthy or having a happy marriage? So many of our counterfeit gods are actually good things which have become first things.
St. Augustine once said "Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee." We were made to worship and enjoy God. Our hearts can only be fulfilled when we are completely satisfied with God and who he is. Whenever we try to satisfy our restless hearts with anything else, we are left hungry. Our unfulfilled hunger leads us to feast from the buffet of this world, gnawing on half eaten food and rancid leftovers when the only Bread that truly satisfies is within reach. We are lured to sip from stagnant, murky water instead of drinking from the Living Water that satisfies all our thirst.
"Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." John 6:35
The despair I felt that day dissipated the moment I turned my eyes away from myself and focused on Christ my Savior. For He alone satisfies all my longings and fulfills all my needs. He loves me more than I could comprehend or imagine. He also knows how much I need Him. He knows that I cannot do life on my own. He knows how distracted my heart is and how easy I stumble.
Just as I know when it's best for my children not to have want they want, my Father knows just what I need and when. If something I've long desired is taken away or God redirects me away from it, I must remember that his plan for me is perfect and always for my good. Because I know that he will always give me what my soul longs for most--himself.
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4