Thursday, February 23, 2012

God and Dissatisfaction

Here's a question I've been wrestling with lately:

As Christians, as committed followers of Christ who believe that He has overcome and is restoring the world (and ourselves) unto completion, do we have a right to be dissatisfied with our lives?

And just to clarify, when I am talking about dissatisfaction, I am not talking about being unhappy or experiencing pain (emotional or physical or otherwise) or grieving or mourning.  Obviously, there are times in our lives when bad things us.  Sometimes, really bad, hard things.  And I do think that we have a right to these emotions...because, for one, I think they are kind of out of our hands.  We feel what we feel.  And two, I think they are healthy and helpful.  Our feelings of pain help us to acknowledge reality, and maybe they help us to see it for what it really is.  And in the process, they bring us to a point where we can identify what it would look like to continue moving forward, new scars and all.

So, sure, I think we have a right to these emotions, which in my mind are natural responses to the world we live in and the circumstances that happen.  But my question is about dissatisfaction, and whether or not this, like other emotions, is something that we have claim to.

Just cutting right to the chase...dissatisfaction seems, at its root, to not be a reaction to the things that happen to us in this world.  Anger, sadness, happiness, frustration....all of those seem like reactions to me.  Dissatisfaction seems more like a conclusion we reach on account of these circumstances.  For example, I might be unhappy about a situation I find myself in because it was not what I expected.  I think I have a right to that feeling, nor do I really think I could force myself to feel happy (and I am certainly not suggesting that we force ourselves into emotions we just do not have).  But dissatisfaction grows from these types of feelings.  Feelings of unhappiness or disappointment are like the fertile ground from which the weed of dissatisfaction can grow.

So after experiencing negative situations and emotions in our lives for a long enough period of time, I think the conversation in our heads turns from "This sucks." to "I don't deserve this." We reach a conclusion about life---that it has not submitted itself to our picture of perfection, and how dare it?.  We all do this.  How can we not?  But nevertheless, my circumstances and my reactions to them turn into a value judgement about life.  That is where I start to wonder if we have the right.

See, if we take things back far enough, we see that our feelings of dissatisfaction with life lie in the fact that we are not sovereign over life.  That the things we will do not always happen.  Yet, as Christians, isn't this precisely the basis of our hope?  We believe in a sovereign, all-good God who is living, active, and continually willing things for the Good.  Moving things in the Right direction.  And us....well, we are not always moving things in that direction.  Our hope lies in the fact that God is bringing about the Good with and in spite of us.  So when we experience tough circumstances in our lives and, rather than communicating those in an honest conversation with God, we jump the track and board the train of dissatisfaction....aren't we in fact telling God, "I should be sovereign, not you?"

Because if that's what is happening, I don't think we have ground to stand on.  I just simply think this is wrong. None of you want to live in a world where my will is sovereign, believe me.  I would love it.  You, probably, would not.  :)

This is all not to say that we should be walking around with smiles plastered on our faces, pretending we're satisfied with life when, really, we aren't.  I certainly think that honesty about our situations is something that is healthy and necessary.  But I think we need to be aware when we make that critical leap from emotional responses to our situations to conclusions about life on account of our situations.

How's that?  Clear as mud?

What do you think?

No comments: