“But God…you’re just so boring.”
The confession was guilty, but honest.
I was in the waning years of my teens, struggling with loneliness, and had stumbled upon an article telling me to “find my ultimate satisfaction in God”. The author just dropped that little gem in front of me and then…finis. End of article. Walked away without telling me how to do it, how to find pleasure in a God I couldn’t see or hear.
As if it’s a piece of cake or something.
Relationship with the unseen is hard. I don’t wake up every morning and have a crisis of belief over whether my best friend exists. I’ve seen him, I’ve heard from him, and even though we don’t get to hang out as much as we’d like, I know – easily, simply, without a doubt – that he loves me as a brother.
It isn’t like that with God. He’s intangible. Elusive. He tends to speak with a still, small voice. Sometimes it takes hour of prayer, Scripture, and meditation to hear him.
I certainly believed in God through Scripture, saw him as a master and a savior. But intimacy? Delight? That’s another level. Especially when I felt I was disappointing him, that our relationship was mostly expectations. When the Psalmist spoke of “eternal pleasures at his right hand” (Psalm 16:11), I felt guilty. Like when you sing the lyrics “O How He Loves” and secretly groan, “It’s a beautiful song, but I have NO idea what he’s talking about.”
Who wants to be pressured into a relationship?
Especially with human fulfillment so seemingly close at hand, so simple to drink from. Home and hearth and sex and babies seemed way more tantalizing. Everyone else seemed to be getting such a kick out of it. Looking back I can see the illusion, how tense and spotty it really was, but at the time, I remained blind. God seemed like the manipulative mother, sabotaging her son’s life so he’d stay home.
So I spent years resenting the very God who wanted to fill me. I accepted a grievous lie, one which I believe many Christian singles have embraced deep down.
“God can’t really fill me like a mate can.”
If you don’t think you’ve embraced this lie, tell me your reaction if I told you you’d be single the rest of your life. How do you feel? Do you have something else to fall back on?
I’m embarrassed about it now. But I didn’t.
But God was patient with me. Confident. He allowed me to trudge on for a few years, constantly fighting resentment, watching my friends marry, gaining real glimpses into hitched existence. He waited as I tacked into the wind of reality.
Then, one day, when he finally had me perfectly positioned, the still, small voice broke into a dull and frustrating moment of my life.
There are many moments in your marriage that will feel just like this, Brandon. What will you do then?
If marriage really wasn’t meant to fill me, if I couldn’t find the life I was looking for there, where would I find it?
I knew the answer.
My pride fought me, but I knew the answer. Like that moment when you remember you’ve forgotten to change the oil in your car for almost a year. “I’m way behind,” I realized. Way behind in getting to know his love.
So I finally chose to give God a try.
I am now here to tell you: it is worth it.
I am only beginning to scratch the surface of how he fills us. And there are layers. God is not easy. He asks to be sought “with all our heart” (Jeremiah 29:12); a paltry effort will not strike the water beneath the surface. Cultivating a relationship with the Unseen takes work. I sometimes wish it didn’t; I sometimes wish I could hear, see, and experience God as easily as I do my friends.
But the layers are how we are sanctified. The layers are how he strips away the lazy in us, brings us closer, and sustains us on the journey.
And once the scales fall from our eyes, something amazing happens. We start to see how God has been wooing us all along.
A towering thunderhead drifted overhead last night, a mammoth blossom of gold and pink and deep orange passing over the South Fork Valley. I love thunderstorms. This one seemed like God’s gift. Who’s to say it wasn’t? Look at the sheer amount of beauty in the world. Just how much has he been revealing himself all along? How many other ways is he doing it?
Perhaps it’s not about God’s elusivity. Perhaps it’s about our density.
Dear singles: I know your sight lines are filled with the joys of human relationship. People on the subway who are happy in their job, or their status, or their financial security, might not look happy; but the person who’s cradling a mate in their arms looks unquestionably satisfied. It shouts what you don’t have, nipping at your contentment like a hyena.
Don’t fall for it.
Romance will fulfill us…somewhat. There is joy to be found there; God graciously outsources some of his love through other humans. But it does not last. It’s like those three-foot bubbles blown on city streets; the moment the delighted child reaches to grasp it, it bursts. Joy cannot be arranged for; it can only come.
Therefore, since we do need something to grasp…God offers himself.
He isn’t kidding when he says only he can complete you.
If you don’t believe God is our ultimate satisfaction, it’s because you haven’t tasted and seen. Not really. Not yet.
You must first set about breaking the awful lie: “God can’t really fill me like a mate can.” That’s the roadblock. You need to renounce this, out loud, in Scripture-soaked prayer. It’ll feel scary and uncertain letting go of the visions you’ve been counting on, burying the daydreams, turning off the romantic books and movies, letting it grow strangely dim. I remember that scary quite well. “But I don’t want to not want this!” I told God in confusion.
He was gracious. He never did kill my desire for marriage.
But letting go was a leap of faith, and a very necessary one. Until you break the lie, you are positioned for disaster. Even if you do find someone, the bubble will eventually burst under your weight. For some it bursts before marriage; for others, afterwards. You will seek too much from it, and it will implode, one way or another. You will also have nothing to offer a spouse, for what we offer is only an overflow of the God we have within us.
I was once on that track. God swooped in and pulled me out like so much Indiana Jones.
And since I won’t be one of those guys who tells you to find satisfaction in God and then forgets to tell you how…here’s a very simple first step (I plan to share many more).
Ask him to reveal his love to you.
He will catch you. Whatever other leaps of faith haven’t worked out for you, this one will. God is earnestly seeking for you to know him. He isn’t going to drop the ball on this one.
Ask him to reveal his love to you.
This, and not the altar, is the great destination you’ve sought your entire life without knowing it. Renounce the lie.
Ask him to reveal his love to you.
God has only one response for those who fling all else aside and leap into his arms, asking him to reveal his love to them.
I’d be delighted.
The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing. (Zep. 3:17)