If you think embracing unsatisfaction means spending your days mired in unappeased longing, think again. There’s no reason we should be aimless, and there’s no reason we can’t pursue fulfillment. Fulfillment is different from the kind of satisfaction our souls long for. Fulfillment means finding a match between our needs and desires and what will gratify them. Most of the time it’s a temporary condition, and mature fulfillment doesn’t call for permanence or perfection—it’s like eating a meal when we’re hungry, knowing we will be hungry again. Ultimate satisfaction, on the other hand, calls for our hunger to be permanently neutralized, satiated once and for all. When we don’t confuse it with satisfaction, fulfillment can be a good guiding goal in our lives.
Sometimes people feel nervous about the idea of seeking fulfillment. It sounds self-indulgent, self-important, maybe even hedonistic. But this need not be true. We all have desires that might lead us to gratify ourselves at the expense of others or that might cause us to destroy ourselves, and it’s not a good idea to follow these impulses. But those aren’t the only desires we possess. As Jen Pollock Michel writes in her excellent book Teach Us to Want, “Although easily corrupted, desire is good, right and necessary. It is a force of movement in our lives, a means of transportation. It can be the very thing that motivates us to change and that carries us to God. Growing into maturity doesn’t mean abandoning our desires, but growing in our discernment of them.”
Sometimes it seems a great many people believe God wants us to be miserable—perhaps while pretending to be happy, maybe while grimly watching the world go by. After all, “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’ ” (Matthew 16:24). Self-denial means we never get what we want, right? Wrong! Humbly submitting your will to God’s, offering everything you are and everything you have to his service, even living with a willingness to die for the sake of faithfulness to him, does not mean rejecting the gifts he gives us and places within us. In fact, sacrificing and submitting to him can be fulfilling in themselves, and they can fit with the desires he places within us.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessarily selfish to desire a change in circumstances. Are we loving God and loving other people in those changes? Are we honoring God’s commands? These are illuminating questions we must ask ourselves. If the change you desire means divorcing your spouse so you can marry a younger model—yes, that is a selfish option. It doesn’t mean the core desire behind that impulse (for a more harmonious marriage relationship, for example) is bad, but it certainly means the desire must be examined and redirected. If your desires are leading you to look for a new job that might be a better fit for you, this probably is not wrong, assuming you are caring for the people you need to care for and living as God would have you live. In fact, it may be a wonderful move that benefits many people as you open your spot for someone who’s dreaming of your current job and you take on a new role where you will have great results because you’re engaged and well-suited to the work.
Sometimes we think what we want doesn’t matter. But God shapes our desires and uses our desires to shape us. Stating what we want can be a powerful expression of our beliefs, our values, our gifts, and our sense of purpose. That doesn’t mean we will always get what we want. It doesn’t give us the right to insist on everything we want. But it can form the foundation of stepping into roles God has designed us for.
Remember, we were created for a better world, with desires that would always lead us to good things. While we, along with our desires and their objects, have been corrupted by sin, our desires are still gifts that can lead us to good things. Think of the desires that lead us into friendships, motivate us to produce children and to love them, encourage us to care for ourselves, haunt us into creating something beautiful, drive us to explore, and beckon us toward God and obedience. We were made with desires that were made to be fulfilled. It’s wise to pay attention to our desires (with a healthy skepticism, realizing we can easily rationalize something that is wrong), recognizing that God uses our desires to lead us.
Even though we can’t achieve perfect satisfaction in this life, and we won’t always get it right, we can pursue a good life. We can pursue achievement of our best self—fully developing the potential God has placed in us. We can match our good desires with the best expressions of what we long for.
This post was excerpted from chapter 6 of my new book, Blessed Are the Unsatisfied: Finding Spiritual Freedom in an Imperfect World. If you want to read more, you can find the book here or wherever you buy books.
Taken from Blessed Are the Unsatisfied by Amy Simpson. Copyright(c) 2018 by Amy Simpson. Used by permission from InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com.
© 2018 Amy Simpson.