The Gift of Dissatisfaction

The Gift of Dissatisfaction

Written by T. M. Suffield |
Monday, October 3, 2022

We need God to unsettle us, to make us dissatisfied with anything but Jesus, and with anything but the age of come. This unsettled longing for an age to come is what the Bible calls joy. It, strangely enough, tends to make contented people, because God satisfies.

There is a gift from God that we do not want. If we’re honest with ourselves, I suspect there are many gifts from God that we don’t want. We enjoy both sin and comfort too much to value all of God’s gifts; we are indicted by our lacklustre enthusiasm for the things of God.

The gift I’d like to focus on is dissatisfaction. There is a spiritual gift of dissatisfaction. And in our comfortable, western, industrialised world we dearly need it.

There’s also something that looks like the spiritual gift of dissatisfaction but is actually the infernal curse of cynicism. I have this one in spades.

Let me flesh out what I mean: if we believe that our world is passing away, that it is in fact groaning in the birth pangs of a better world (Romans 8) then we should compare our lives, our churches, and our societies, with what we understand is coming.

If we believe that the old creation is gone and the new come in Christ’s resurrection (John 20-21), but that the kingdom—the new creation—is also not yet here; that we live in what theologians call realised eschatology and I call the Between, then we must expect to see partial fulfilments of what the world will be like after she is reborn in fire. And we must expect to not see total fulfilments of that pregnant promise.

There’s a sense in which a Christian’s life is orientated towards a future that we only see through a glass, darkly (1 Corinthians 13). Or it’s supposed to be, anyway.

We also desire to see our hearts, our churches, and our cultures, changed and shaped in the direction of the Kingdom here and now before we die. That’s a good desire, and we should expect to see some fulfilments as the Spirit acts on us. As always, God changes churches by changing people. Typically I think he also changes cultures by changing churches—in Leithart’s language “the heavenly city resurrects the cities of men.”

These are good desires. It is good to ask what God requires of us in order to do as we ask. I think there are two criteria for a move of God, one for us and one for him. The requirement that sits with us is found in the logic of baptism in the Spirit. In John 7 Jesus gives one requirement for us to be changed: thirst.

In other words, we must want it. Want requires a precondition: dissatisfaction.

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