If there is anything that we have all experienced through our pandemic odyssey, I expect it might be the longing for more. Whether it was more time with loved ones, more closeness with family, more freedom to come and go, more clarity, more… hope. We all felt it. Maybe we still do.
But for followers of Jesus, we’ve been taught that we are to be content, as Paul the Apostle so straitly put it, “in whatsoever state I am.” (Philippians 4.11) We’ve been taught (and rightly so) to seek and find our satisfaction in Christ. And yet, we want more. We hunger for something we’ve only tasted. We crave something that we’ve only seen from a distance. We are dissatisfied with the incompleteness of our earthly experience. We are far more familiar than we care to admit with a gnawing discontent.
I was looking again at a passage that I’ve wrestled with so many times over the last few years and was pointing out to my faith family yet again that God’s design for us is an ongoing renewal. We are, according to Paul’s letter to the believers at Colossae, to “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3.10)
Inherent in this statement is the truth that God’s plan for every believer in this life is to be moving forward, upward, inward—into the depths of His love and grace.
That means I can never be completely satisfied with my understanding of His nature, His love, His ways, His grace. It means that there will always be more to learn, to understand, to experience of His greatness.
In fact, Paul wrote to the Ephesian church that God’s intention is to spend all of the ages yet to come revealing to us “the immeasurable riches of his grace.”(Ephesians 2.7) We’re NEVER going to have it all in our understanding because it’s too vast, too deep, too incredibly much to know.
But here… now… I find myself far too often woefully content with my own spiritual progress. I’m so very satisfied to simply sit in my knowledge and awareness as it is instead of reaching for more.
I’ve heard of people that have been so starved for food that they no longer felt hunger. I can’t help but wonder if many of us who claim to be followers of Jesus have simply lost our appetites for the wonders of God’s grace to the point that we have no concern for our own growth.
God help us.
I wonder what it will take to shake us from our slumber, to stir the appetites so long neglected.
As I was pondering this question, my mind played back a refrain planted in my ears years ago when listening with my kids to C. S. Lewis’ masterful tales, the Chronicles of Narnia. As the story reached its ultimate climax, the characters were summoned to proceed on toward their eternal destination with the joyful urging, “Further up! Further in!”
Isn’t that the call of the Spirit to every believer—even in these days of fear, strife, and chaos—to look and reach further up into the wonders of our Savior, to lean further in to the immeasurable riches of His grace?
But how do we do that when suffering seems the only reliable constant in this life? How can we press on further up, further in, when it seems an insurmountable obstacle to simply put one foot in front of the other to take a step?
I had a photo some years ago of a group of people on a roller coaster. In the center of the photo there was a person with their eyes closed and a broad, peaceful smile across their face. In the seat right next to them was another person whose face is displaying sheer terror. They were less than six inches apart, experiencing the very same motion, the same force upon their bodies, and were certainly headed for the same safe arrival at their destination. What was the difference?
When we reframe the hardships, obstacles, and uncertainties of life as opportunities to experience more of God’s character and presence, we find that there is a peace that doesn’t really make sense to the world around us. We find the dips and dives and twists and turns and slow, treacherous climbs all to be moments to experience the presence and power and all-sufficient transforming grace of our great God.
Isn’t He calling us all, “Further up, further in?”
O Father, forgive my misplaced contentment. Stir me, draw me, energize me to move further up, further in.