I get soul ache. Every once and a while I feel uncomfortable in my own skin. I’ll feel like the man who’s afraid to fly when he is stuck on a airplane. Or, like the women who’s claustrophobic who is forced to ride the subway. Life in this fallen world sometimes makes me feel sick — like I’m stuck in a place I’d rather never be.
When this soul ache creeps up on me my initial response is to medicate it away. Throughout my past, there have been times that I’ve sought out a variety of prescriptions — the over-the-counter forms include TV, movies, and video games while the heavier stuff takes the shape of substance abuse and inappropriate sexual indulgence. These things never really help, they only mask the hurt temporarily.
Some christians think this sort of thing, my unsatisfied longing for God, is a sign of limited spiritual growth. They would say: if I only fixed my theology or became more adept at quiet times then God, who is the well-spring of true Life, would satisfy my deepest desires and most heart-felt needs. And while I agree that God can do this, I strongly believe he does not, at least for now. God is hidden and we are still broken. Our relationship with God is still founded on faith, not sight.
In the future, things will change. We will see God face-to-face. We will sit at the wedding feast, and all our soul hunger will be satisfied. But that feast is in the future. For now, all we get are tidbits from the table. We occasionally get moments when we sense God’s presence, or seemingly supernatural overlaps of heaven and earth in things like the sacrificial love of a friend. Unfortunately, these tasty morsels are few and far between. It’s my feeling that people who celebrate these tidbit experiences as though they are an all satisfying feast from God are over-selling the Christian life. We will be satisfied in the future, but we certainly aren’t fully satisfied now.
I’m learning that soul satisfaction isn’t a requirement for my life. I don’t have to be satisfied all the time. Just because God doesn’t satisfy my longing for him now, doesn’t mean I should try and satisfy this longing somewhere else. Furthermore, I’m learning that this yearning can actually be a faith-building experience. When I’m lying in my bed wanting to cry and feeling out of place in the world, I remember that actually I am out of place in the world! I’m meant to experience face-to-face communion with my Creator, and my pain over not having this fellowship testifies to my longing for it. Feeling soul ache, and not medicating it away, may be one of the best forms of worship I can offer. It’s a statement of God’s unparalleled worth and my desire to be with him in heaven.