One thing we can all agree on is that 2020 has been rough. We are not okay. Each of us is walking this earth carrying our personal share of heartbreak, grief, and disappointment as this year continues to knock us over, wave after wave. Our mental health hangs by a thread as we try to fight back against stress, anxiety, anger, and sorrow. The waves threaten to pull us under just when we think we’ve regained our balance. We are soaked and sputtering as the days go by, and we look to other shores with longing.
We try to buoy our hope by telling ourselves:
- Once the kids are back in school, I’ll be fine.
- Once I find a job, things will be okay.
- Once there’s a vaccine, I won’t feel so anxious.
- If the election turns out how I want it to, I’ll feel better.
- Once I can go back to church as usual, all will be well.
- If I can just hang in there until (fill in the blank), I’ll be all right again.
When our dissatisfaction affects our relationship with God
This kind of attitude can affect the way we relate to God. We beg him for the blessings we think will give us peace, for what we’re sure will satisfy us. Jesus cautions us against this. In John 6, Jesus feeds the five thousand, then immediately afterwards, retreats to a mountain to pray. Overnight, he joins the disciples across the lake in Capernaum. That morning, the crowd of 5,000 is looking for him:
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” (Jn. 6: 25-27)
Jesus rightly points out that the crowd is seeking him because of what he can do for them. They want the satisfaction that his blessings provide. In response, the crowd switches gears:
Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” (Jn. 6:28)
Just tell us what to do Lord, what are the boxes we can check, the good works we can perform? I’ll do it, and then you’ll fill my belly again, right? In reply, Jesus answers them:
“This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst." (Jn. 6:29,33,35)
Our ultimate satisfaction
In this season of restlessness and discontent, we are especially prone to look to our circumstances to make us feel whole. I can almost hear God’s voice, tinged with compassion: “You don’t want me, you want the vaccine. You’re not pursuing me, you’re pursuing what you want me to do for you.”
Instead of putting our hope in our circumstances, Jesus invites us to find our peace, hope, and joy in him.
“God’s gifts are a blessing and his work is important, but neither can nor should replace God as our focus.” – Skye Jethani
The restless and dissatisfied feelings inside of us won’t be satiated once our church doors reopen, once the schools take our children back, once we are healed and healthy, once we have a steady paycheck, once, once, once…. God doesn’t wait until conditions are perfect to draw near to us. God’s presence is always with us. We need only to turn toward him.