(…continued) I realized that the key is in seeing our desires on two levels. There are day to day desires and needs, and there are eternal desires and needs. There are many concerns on the surface of life; and those are important and need to be tended to. But there are also those deeper concerns that are always there, no matter how good or bad things are on the surface.
For example, I believe in Jesus as my Savior, and therefore I believe that even if were to I die today, I would be all right because the promises of Jesus are forever. There was a time, many years ago, I did not know what to believe about life and death, and I was looking for something to believe in. For many good reasons, I decided to believe in Jesus as the way and the truth and the life, so I am not looking anymore. I found in Jesus what is true and what I need. I have already looked at the other options and now, I’m all in with Jesus. On that level, I have found what I am looking for.
However, on another level, I am still looking for many things. If a month ago right now you would have asked me if I had found everything I was looking for, I would have said “No!” because I was desperately looking for someone to fix my water heater at home. So, that led to some frustration, because I couldn’t find what I was looking for— on that other level.
But one wrong move on the highway, and an ambulance ride to the intensive care unit of a hospital, and I would have forgotten all about that water heater. But I would still be holding on to and taking comfort in that deeper hope. We’re always going back and forth like that, between the smaller and larger concerns of life.
I don’t know if Bono had any of that in mind when he wrote those lyrics, but the life of faith is always a challenge. The song is not only about spiritual seeking and finding, but it is also about the ongoing struggle of faith.
I am reminded of that story in Mark chapter nine where a desperate father asks Jesus to heal his troubled son, saying to Jesus, “If you can do anything, help us.” Jesus replies, “What do you mean if? Everything is possible for one who believes.” And the man says, “Lord, I do believe; but help me overcome my unbelief.” Belief and unbelief are there, in the same person, at the same time. Isn’t that how it always is? And the U2 song brilliantly reflects the same struggle, describing a believer who is declaring his faith; but one who is still searching, still wondering, still trying to figure it out, and still looking for more– of something.
Keep in mind those two levels of need. Deep down, those who believe in Jesus can indeed possess that ‘peace that passes all understanding.’ But on the surface, we still might be looking for more– a stronger faith, the strength to do the right thing, the ability to forgive someone at work, reconciliation with an estranged family member, a little peace and quiet once in a while, a day off, victory over temptation, a good report from the doctor, a visit from the son just down the street who hasn’t stopped in for weeks, or, a call back from the water heater repairman. There are many different things we are still ‘looking for’ and have not found.
Now, of course, we have to be careful. We do have a tendency to want too much and expect too much on that surface level. There is no need to be always unhappy about the normal day to day frustrations. That’s life. And the desire for a more secure income can become endless and impossible to satisfy. And the quest for good health can become an obsession, and we are all, one day, going to die of something. And no two people are always on the same page, so a part of life is learning to live with the differences. And the Bible does say life is a test, and in this world you will have trouble, and God may not want to answer all your prayers and take away all your afflictions, because it is by those afflictions that we grow stronger in our faith and are reminded of our need for God. So the Bible teaches us to be content, troubles and all.
The Bible, in fact, teaches us how to live on both levels. For those concerns on the surface, II Timothy says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out. If you have food and clothing be content with that.” The Bible also warns us about wearing ourselves out seeking that which does not satisfy.
The Bible has even more to say about our hope and confidence on that deeper level. Romans 14:8 says, “Whether we live or die we belong to the Lord.” Philippians 1:21 says, “To live is to be in Christ, and then to die is gain.” The 23rd Psalm says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou are with me… and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Everything, even life itself, can be taken away, and we are still all right.
Last Fall several of us gathered here for a few Thursday evenings to learn about Christians who are being persecuted for their faith, especially in the Middle-East. You have seen these people on the news; Christians being targeted for their faith, driven from their homes, or killed by radical Muslim fanatics. In the class we read a book and watched several video segments about these people. We were amazed by the faith, persistence, forgiveness, strength, and joy of these people. On the surface, they were lacking everything. If you would have asked them what they were looking for, they could have told you they were looking for peace, safety, a way to feed their families that day, a place to sleep that night, a chance to go home again, and many were looking for missing loved ones. They had lost so much. And yet, deep down they were all right. They were smiling and thanking God for the hope they had within them, for whatever meager blessings they did receive each day, and for the love of and presence of Jesus. Deep down, they indeed had that ‘peace that passes all understanding.’ They were joyful because they still had what was most important. They had Jesus and his promise of that place where there would be no more danger, no more grief, no more death or sadness or pain, anymore, for Jesus has said that he would make all things new.
Bono wrote that song thirty years ago, so I don’t know whether or not he has finally found what he is looking for. Actually, none of us ever get everything we are looking for. This life always falls short, and we are always looking for something else, something better, an easier path, or, if nothing else, a little more time. C. S. Lewis, always one with a brilliant insight into everything, turned such unfulfilled desires into a reason for faith, and even evidence there was something to hope for. He said, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
Right! The Bible says we were made for God and his home. That is what we are looking for most of all.