Do you ever just want more? More of whatever will make you happy? More of something you don't even really know what it is that will satisfy you? Do you ever feel helpless to even put a finger on what that "thing" is that is missing in your life?
I think it's safe to say we all hunger for more. Desire and fulfilling desire is innate. The world, the flesh, and the devil conjure up all kinds of pleasures and fulfillments to lure us toward the goal of satisfaction. But, as many of us know, none of those things satisfy us. No amount of money, prestige, weight loss, followers, clothes, shoes, food, sex, and more can satisfy all the longings of our ever-wandering hearts. I found myself thinking a lot about this idea of hungering and longing for more recently. I look at all the things going on around us: political unrest and division, racial outcries and rampages, medical confusion, differing opinions and views politically, emotionally, religiously, and more. And, I look within myself: warring and worrying about whether or not I am "doing" motherhood, homeschooling, wife-hood (is that a word?!), work, housework, scheduling, caring for friends and neighbors, and so much more... am I doing it right? How can I keep this going? Why am I so tired? God, why do I easily find myself distracted with social media, my desires for praise... why am I so easily disappointed or dissatisfied when things happen or don't happen? Why is this world so disgusting and alluring all at the same time?
As I was struggling through all these things, I was reading about the Israelites and the story of Balaam. Balaam was asked by the king of Moab to curse the Israelites. Why? Because Balak (the king of Moab) was terrified of the Israelites and their obvious successes in defeating other cities and people. Balak promises Balaam a lot of money/wealth if he will do this. Balaam is seriously tempted to follow through with Balak's request. He goes with the princes of Moab, but is stopped (if you remember) by his donkey who sees an angel with a sword standing in the road. Balaam tries beating the donkey in order to continue the journey. The donkey refuses to budge, and God allows the donkey to speak to Balaam in an attempt to get it through this head that there is danger ahead. Balaam realizes he has sinned in going with the princes and agreeing to pronounce a curse on God's people. However, if you continue reading the story, Balaam continues his journey to Moab ("let us be jealous over our own hearts seeing how far men may go in the knowledge of God, and yet come short of Divine Grace!" [M. Henry]). God, in his divine providence, causes Balaam to speak blessings over Israel instead of curses. In the first oracle, Balaam says, "How can I curse whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced? ...Who can count the dust of Jacob or number the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the upright, and let my end be like his!" (Numbers 23: 8,10). Balaam continues these oracles, pronouncing blessing instead of cursing until Balak becomes so disgusted he basically tells Balaam to just quit talking!
In reading commentary on this, particularly the verses mentioned above, I observed, "Balaam pronounces the righteous blessed in both life and death- 'There are many who desire to die the death of the righteous, but do not endeavor the live the life of the righteous; gladly would they have an end like theirs [meaning heaven]... Many seek to quiet their consciences with the promise of future amendment or take up with some false hope, while they neglect the only way of salvation by which a sinner can be made righteous before God!' (M. Henry)."
In this story, Balaam tried finding satisfaction in his pride and ambition (the king sought him out and promised him wealth). He sought that satisfaction in hopes of obtaining the wealth and prestige promised him. Then, when he realized he had sinned against God, he did not reject the king (or his sin!) entirely. Instead he attempted to please the king by performing sacrifices and then saying he would speak what the Lord told him to speak. In all this, God spoke through Balaam. But, look at how far Balaam was willing to go in order to gratify his desires! To go so far as to curse God's people! And, in all this- Balaam declares the desires of his heart as well as the hearts of those who were not God's people: To die like the upright. Why? Because the upright have a blessed hope of standing before God in righteousness.
How our world longs for hope and righteousness and goodness and satisfaction- and yet, they reject the very way to have this hope and righteousness and goodness and satisfaction, choosing instead to parley with the world, the flesh, and the devil in order to instantly gratify earthly satisfactions. And, in our own hearts, we long for things. We know that in Christ we have that blessed hope of heaven and being glorified before him. But, our wretched flesh still conjures up desires for more. So, in this, how can we live satisfied lives?
By finding our satisfaction in Christ. Yes, we have salvation (if, indeed, you have come to him in repentance in faith), but our hearts still stray and wander from truth. We are still prone to seeking satisfaction in earthly things. C.S. Lewis puts our weakness this way: "It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." Ouch. Too pleased with my meager offerings of church attendance and daily Bible reading. Too pleased with my meager attempts at becoming like Christ. Too pleased with my meager attempts to mortify my flesh. Too pleased with my meager attempts to be just a fine Christian girl.
I am telling you. I want more. I want more than just a mud pie. I want the richest, the best, the most. Not of this fleeting world, but of Christ! Again, C.S. Lewis writes, "If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world." We are. I am. This world is not it. (Thank goodness!) There is more! More to life. More to death. And, God's word has the answers! Are you hungering for more? Are you struggling within yourself as a child of God and wondering why you feel unsettled? Wonder no more. You are unsettled because this world is not your home. You are restless because true rest is found in heaven. And, that hunger? That is for righteousness. For God. For heaven. For being like Christ!
As I was pondering all these things, I heard a sermon from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) and the verse that talks about "blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." In my limited understanding of these verses, I always assumed that these things (meaning righteousness) were to be attained now. Thank goodness, though, that is not the case! As was so beautifully explained by the pastor, our hunger and thirst for righteousness will not be adequately and abundantly filled until heaven. And, this verse is a looking ahead- a promise- that as we go through this trouble-tossed, dissatisfied world, we are looking for more. We are pursuing righteousness. Why? Because we will be filled. When? In Heaven.
So, that hungering and thirsting of your soul? That's normal. We will continue to hunger and thirst. BUT- the key for me (and you) as a follower of Christ is to ensure that our pursuit is for the right goal: Christ and his righteousness. Have you found yourself looking at other places, people, or possessions for that satisfaction? Stop. Those who do not know Christ are looking in those places and finding nothing. How they long to die the death of the upright- yet, they do not want to live the life that pursues righteousness. We know the end goal. We have the answers. And, as we seek Christ, hunger for him and to be like him, our hunger for heaven and true righteousness will continue. We will want more and more and more of him. And, that's good! Because, oh, that blessed anticipation of heaven when we shall see him and be like him and taste, finally, of that blessedness which is his righteousness!
Are you pursuing Christ? Are you hungering for more and more of him? This is good. This is needed. Continue to pursue him.
Have you lost that pursuit? Have you become content to make mud pies in your Christian life? Stop. Get up. Wash the mud off and look to Christ. He is more. Much, much more. Confess the sins that are keeping you from a continual pursuit of him.
In the every day struggles and warring of the soul, remember that this is normal. But, the desire must be for Christ. For his righteousness. Beware of the devil's subtle tricks to get you to pursue other things. May your hunger for him never wane, but may it increase so that you desire more and more of him.
I encourage you to read this passage from II Corinthians 6: 1-10. Make this your meditation this week as we consider the riches we have in Christ: "Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says,
“In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” (Remember your salvation!)
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live (AMEN!); as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything (emphasis and additional parentheses mine)."
Whatever hungers and longings press the heart and mind, may my pursuit be for Christ and him alone. For more and more and more of him!
Additional song for meditation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bpQqkCF__I