Another way you might say this to me is: OK, so maybe you have provided some logical, philosophical, and even scientific arguments for the existence of God, but so what? Why should I care?
Here’s the short answer: because God is the one who made you and gave you those longings, so He is the only one who can truly fulfill them.
Now for the longer (but hopefully not too long) answer, continuing this series on Christian apologetics (being ready, willing, and able to explain your faith to someone who is seeking to understand it, or to someone who is questioning your sanity for believing in God).
Things Are Not the Way They’re Supposed to Be
I’ll start by pointing out that with all of the unrest in the world and in our country, you don’t have to watch the news for long to conclude that things are not the way they were intended to be. I think most of us have the innate sense that this is so, for to see it otherwise is to be totally devoid of hope, and people like that don’t last very long.
You may be asking the question right now, Well, if there is a God, why doesn’t he fix it and make things so they are the way way they were intended to be? If you are, then you might have missed my post last week, Beyond Belief – How Can You Believe in a God that Allows Pain and Suffering? Please take a look to see how I grappled with that question.
So where would we get this sense that things are not the way they are supposed to be? There is no scientific explanation for why we would ever think that. The only rational explanation is there was an Intelligent Designer (i.e., God) who designed us with the ability to recognize that things are not as they should be, who embedded in us longings for a better world, a better way.
Longings? What Longings?
We all long for beauty. Of course, what we find beautiful varies from each one of us to the next–poetry, sunsets or sunrises, music (but what type? Classical, jazz, polkas, rap?) paintings, a kind person, an attractive person, flowers, photography, and so on–but the yearning for beauty is universal. We also long to understand the answers to deep questions like “What is the meaning of life?” and “Why am I here?” We want to be loved unconditionally for who we are. We want to belong. We long for truth and closure.
So, that’s a short list of common longings. I could go on, but I won’t, in hopes that you get the idea and that this has stirred examples of your own.
How Do We Scratch Those Itches?
Well, that’s the root cause of so many problems in our culture today: into the void caused by these longings, we pour all kinds of garbage, encouraged by social media and popular entertainment, but sponsored by the evil one, who comes to steal and kill and destroy. To be clear, there may not be anything wrong with some of the things we use to try to fulfill our longings. The problems are ignited by trying to force these good things to become the ultimate things to satisfy our yearnings. Things like friendships or relationships (a tendency of my younger daughter), intellect (a tendency of my son), food, movies, career, sports, and so on.
What’s even worse than those tendencies, though, is when people seek to address their longings in harmful ways. Examples include drugs, alcohol abuse, violence, pornography, etc.
Regardless of how we try to address our yearnings with worldly tools, the end result is the same: they remain unfulfilled, leaving us feeling lost and broken. Why is that?
Because God designed us with longings that only he can fulfill. That’s the “so what?” here. It’s how God is connected to our yearnings. Here’s how CS Lewis put it:
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.Lewis, C. S.. Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis Signature Classics) (pp. 136-137). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
How Can God Fulfill My Longings?
The answer to this is encapsulated in Jesus’s encounter with the Samaritan woman, as described in John, chapter 4. According to the culture of the day, Jesus should not even have been speaking with this unnamed woman because she was from a different ethnic group and she was a woman. And yet he did it anyway (showing us, incidentally, that we should not be racist and that men are not better than women). In this conversation, Jesus answers the question of how he (by virtue of his place in the triune God) fulfills our longings:
Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.Jesus, in John 4:13-14 (NIV, emphasis added), borrowed from YouVersion
Also, thinking back to my short list of longings earlier, there are additional scriptural references that show how God can satisfy them. Rather than include a bunch of words describing each of them, I’ll list some of those verses here with a link to them in YouVersion (a free online Bible with many different translations). You can and should check them out for yourself if you are unfamiliar with God’s love letter to us (all quotes are from the NIV):
- God’s great, unconditional love for us:
- “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” 1 John 3:1.
- “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:9-10
- “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
- Another reference to water for all who are thirsty: “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” Psalms 63:1
- Truth: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32
The Bottom Line
Here it is in summary. God made us for relationship with Him. He planted seeds in our hearts that would turn us toward Him–our longings. But we have tried to fill these with many worldly things, some good and some bad (but even the good things are not good if we try to put them in God’s place in our lives). Regardless of that, no matter how many things we have put in God’s place to try to fulfill our yearnings, God still loves us and wants to be in relationship with us. So He sent us Jesus (God the Son) to show us the way to fulfill our longings, by entering into relationship with Him, and to save us by taking the punishment we deserve for putting all these other things in place of Him.
If you think God is angry and wants nothing to do with you, you don’t know God–you have been believing the lies from hell and social media. If you think you need to “clean up your act” before God will accept you, you don’t know God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness. If you think all the things you’re pursuing besides God to try to fulfill your unfulfilled longings will do the trick, you don’t know yourself or God. If you think church is a place where you will be judged, then either you’ve been to the wrong church or you’re believing the lies from hell trying to keep you away from God.
For your own good and personal fulfillment, don’t believe any of the garbage you see on TV or read about in social media about God. Investigate Him for yourself using the Bible and other positive, informed resources (like the blog posts in this series) to form your own ideas and opinions. Jesus is knocking on the door, patiently waiting for you to open it. If you let him in, he will fulfill all the mysterious longings of your heart.