When Satisfying Yourself in God Isn’t Satisfying

 This post originally appeared on April 17, 2015 at phyliciadelta.com

Earlier this week we talked about desire and what to do when desires are overwhelming us. Part of that battle requires shifting focus from what we want to the source of all our needs: Jesus Christ.

But in the midst of this battle to choose Christ over our human nature, the pat answer to “satisfy yourself in God” isn’t always welcome. How do we satisfy ourselves in God when – frankly – we’re still not satisfied?

I always say, “I’ve been there” – because I have. Every married person was single at one time, working through the same desires, struggles, and difficulties single women are still facing today. I get it. That’s why I have this blog.

Having made the transition from singleness to dating to married and now in the early stages of motherhood, I understand the battle for satisfaction.  Just like contentment, satisfaction is not limited to the stage of singleness.

(Read the post Contentment is Not a State of Being for more thoughts on this.)

Dissatisfaction is no respecter of persons. It settles in all of our hearts regardless of our stage of life. But dissatisfaction is not God’s intention for His children, who have access to abundant and eternal life:

“ I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved (will live). He will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture.

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).” (John 10:9-10, Amplified, emphases mine)

The Necessity of God Himself

My faithful readers will recall that when my husband (Mr. M) and I first met, we were not attracted to one another. I had no initial “desire” for Josh emotionally or physically. But as I spent time with him and came to understand his character and heart, my desire for his presence grew.

Our relationship developed from acquaintance to friendship, from friendship to confidence, from confidence to commitment, and from commitment to intimacy. But there was an essential factor that ultimately brought us the marriage we have today: I wasn’t looking to Josh for a relationship status, for arm candy, or for help with my math homework. The essential factor was Josh himself. 

Even long-term Christians can have a “relationship” with God founded on the wrong motives. We may seek Him for the status of relationship: “Of course I’m a Christian! I was raised a Christian, I serve in my church, I study the Word – I’m saved!”

We may seek Him for how He makes us look: “Being a Christian makes me a good person of integrity, and my employers, friends and colleagues respect me because of it.”

Or we might seek Him for what He can do for us: “As a Christian God will give me good things: a future, a husband, a great job, the American dream.”

You can be the best of Christians and still be dissatisfied in your relationship with God. If this is the case, I challenge you to look at what you’re worshipping. Is it your knowledge about God, or is it God Himself?  Our spiritual actions, good deeds, and holy character are not the point of our faith, but a by-product of it. The point of Christianity is a thriving relationship with the Living God. 

You see, God Himself can’t be unsatisfying. He is the Creator of Life, of you, of everything you have and do and breathe and live. Just as I found joy in my relationship with Josh as a person (not what he could do for me), if you are dissatisfied with God, my friend, your relationship with Him is most likely impersonal. 

God is a Person

Making the transition from knowing about God to knowing God Himself requires a paradigm shift. Due to God’s enormity and invisibility, our physical separation from Him can cause us to view Him as an impersonal figure. But God – the Creator of people – is a Person. Only by understanding Him in a personal way can the relationship be satisfying.

How do we make this shift?

  • Study the descriptions of God’s Person. Passages in Isaiah and Revelation reveal powerful descriptions of who God is and what He acts like. Psalms reveals the human response to God’s character. The gospels reveal God in human form, taking on human likeness, and working out His love in visible form.
  • Look for God’s expressions and emotions in Scripture. God feels love toward us (Mark 10:13); He is moved with compassion (Matthew 20:34); God even laughs (Psalm 2:4)!
  • Assess your prayer life. Do you pray as if you are talking into a void? God hears the prayers of the righteous (1 John 5:14-15). While you are yet speaking, He hears you (Isaiah 65:24). He rewards those who seek Him (Heb. 11:6). When we pray in accordance with God’s will, He will answer. Stop praying timidly: pray boldly, pray specifically, and expect an answer. Then keep your eyes open to watch for God’s work.

It is in knowing and communicating with God Himself – God the Person – that we come to understand the deep, satisfying relationship God desires for all His children. This kind of relationship isn’t just for Beth Moore and Tim Keller or Paul the Apostle – the “big guys” of the Christian faith. It is for the single woman. It is for the teenage girl. It is for the struggling wife. It is for the lonely mother. It is for all who call upon the name of the Lord (Romans 10:13). 

This understanding of God’s character is what leads to “delighting yourself in the Lord” (Psalm 37:4).

One of my friends in college who perpetually struggled with her health once said something I would never forget: “It amazes me that God… the train of whose robe fills the Temple… is also the One who holds my hand.”

Her relationship with God was founded on a deep, thriving, growing knowledge of God Himself: a personal, loving, magnificent God who was real to her in the midst of her struggles. Because He was real, He satisfied.

You Hold the Keys

Our very existence is a reflection of God’s love.

Our lives were God’s decision to bring yet another human being into this world for the potential of having a relationship with Him. And yet the Sovereign God, Savior and King – in all His power He created you with a human will… and set you free. 

The One with power to dethrone kings and calm storms hands you the keys to a relationship with Him, stands at the door, and knocks (Rev. 3:20).

While the Holy Spirit calls and convicts us, we have the free will to choose or reject Jesus Christ. This doesn’t stop at a salvation decision. Each day we wake up we choose yet again how close we will walk with the Lord: how personally we will know Him, how often we will talk to Him, and how firmly we will believe Him. How we choose determines how satisfied we are.

God could demand our love and worship, but because love necessitates freedom of choice, He takes the risk of grief and calls us to Him. We decide whether or not we come; whether or not we believe He is as satisfying as that boyfriend, husband, family, job or whatever it is on earth we want. 

He gives us the choice of finding satisfaction in a consistent, perseverent relationship with Him. Not in doing things for Him. Not in just learning about Him.

In being with God Himself.

Can God Fill the Relationship Void?

All this may seem good and true but I still get the question: “How can God satisfy the desire for human companionship?” Certainly a physical person is capable of fulfilling certain things a spiritual God cannot – such as getting together for coffee or hugging or actually laughing together!

To be satisfied in God does not mean your desire for human companionship disappears; it is simply overwhelmed by your relationship with the Lord.  Human companionship is God’s design and God will bring it about for all of us in His timing and way; but human companionship is not our ultimate need. Marriage is not our ultimate destiny. Husbands and boyfriends are not capable of satisfying the companionship “need” for the long term.

See “Marriage Will Not Cure Your Lonely“. 

I’ve discovered that, in developing a deeply personal relationship with God, I have been satisfied by Him in the absence of human companionship. I went through a phase where I had few close girl friends. As I prayed for God to bring new ones into my life, I had to depend on Him as my sounding board. I told Him my daily stories. I confessed to Him my frustrations.

This is what a real, living relationship with God is supposed to look like: like a relationship with a Person.

Whose Mind is Stayed On You

If your craving human companionship has caused you to find little to no satisfaction in God, you must first assess where your mind is focused. While marriage is a good and holy desire, if it consumes your thoughts daily and hourly, it is no wonder you are dissatisfied with God. There is another god consuming your heart.

I have been right there, in these trenches before and I can tell you: dwelling on marriage, on singleness, on relationships, feeding your mind on romance novels and Meg Ryan movies and ridiculous TV shows – all it does is pull your mind further and further from the satisfaction you COULD have with God Himself. But your mind is too clogged up to have room. Your thoughts are constantly turned to what God has created instead of God the Creator. Not only does this fundamentally damage your relationship with God, it ill equips you for any kind of relationship – including marriage.

Your mind controls your response to desire, so your mind must be focused completely and wholly on the Lord in order for you to experience the peace He provides:

“You keep her in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because she trusts in you.” (Is. 26:3)

Like I said in “What Do I Do With These Desires?”, this is going to be a moment-by-moment decision. No one said it would be easy! Our faith isn’t something we pick up in the morning and carry under our arm throughout the day: Jesus Christ, and what He has done, is the beginning, the ending, and the in between of every single moment and decision we have before us. This means the battle for our thoughts isn’t a surprise. It’s to be expected. We are first and foremost spiritual persons communing with a spiritual God, and when we can keep our priorities in that alignment, we will start to see what satisfaction means. 

As a single woman, I had to be drastic to keep my thoughts on the Lord. I think we Christians take this initiative a little too lightly. I cut out everything – fiction, movies, TV shows, music, attending the theater, hanging out with certain friends – that produced discontent and dissatisfaction in my heart. Even today, I have to take month-long breaks from Pinterest, and I am continually analyzing the media I’m consuming to see if it is helping me keep my mind on Christ or if it’s just another distraction. This is NOT extremism: this is what it takes for me to “walk holy”. Do what it takes for you to have a holy mind and therefore a holy life. 

Finding True Satisfaction

If we expect to feel happy all the time, or to be “satisfied” in the sense we have everything we have ever wanted – that’s not what satisfaction means. It means an inner peace and acceptance of where we are, knowing God is with us in our current situation. This is what Paul was talking about when He said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”! If you read the context, he was saying that God gives him the strength to be satisfied no matter what his personal conditions.

We receive that same strength by pursuing a deeply personal relationship with God Himself. It doesn’t come from Bible knowledge, ladies’ Bible studies, counseling, serving in the church, mission trips, or anything else. Sometimes I have to back away from it all and remind myself that the summation of my life, my work, my faith – it all goes back to how well I knew God Himself. 

If you keep trying to do the Christian things – good things! – in order to eventually rid yourself of dissatisfaction, it won’t happen. You can read your Bible, study the verses, write down notes and still feel as if God is not satisfying until you stop seeking satisfaction and simply seek God.

I’m not saying this is a quick fix. It’s much like my friend Sarah explained when she cut sugar out of her diet: the first few weeks were hard, but as she persevered she began to feel better and better. After a few months, the sugary things she used to eat no longer satisfied her – they were sickly sweet, too sweet for her now-healthy taste!

In the same way, satisfying your heart in God is a discipline of your spirit. Pour out your heart to Him. Treat Him like a person. Act like He is your friend, your Father, and your Savior – all the things we know He is but forget to believe. And in knowing and believing, you will come to fully grasp the love He has for you – a love that truly satisfies.

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Questions can be emailed to Phylicia at phyliciadelta@hotmail.com.

Phylicia lives in Central Virginia where she works full time for Liberty University coordinating visits with youth leaders and homeschool families. Her favorite things are her french press, Julia Child biographies, farm markets, balcony gardening and her sunny KitchenAid 600. And last but never least: Mr. M. To learn more, follow her @phyliciadelta or visit phyliciadelta.com.

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