Our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something
in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside
of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation.
Every attempt to squeeze a reason for living out of this world in isolation from its Creator ultimately runs dry, leaving the idolater unfulfilled, frustrated, and bitter. The insufficiency of creation is a billboard for the sufficiency of God. He alone can meet our deepest needs.
God’s insistence that he alone be worshiped, so that our exercise of dominion [over the creation] is done in dependence on him, is therefore not an expression of evil egotism but an overture of love. God has created us in such a way that our fulfillment is wrapped up in displaying his glory. When God insists that he alone be our God, he is insisting on our happiness, since nothing compares with God when satisfying our longings.
– Scott Hafemann, The God of Promise and the Life of Faith
We are not merely a lost generation . . . Our predicament is much deeper and of much longer duration. Centuries of skepticism, doubt, and contempt have taken their toll. Millions of us across the Western world have been rendered spiritual eunuchs. It’s not that we don’t long for God. The problem is that we’re incapable of consummating the relationship. Faith and grace have been drained from us, leaving only those most primitive of instincts: our obsessions with self and things material. We are a race of accountants counting the grains of sand on our beaches. We are a tribe of technicians, fixing the hands of a clock that counts down the seconds of our lives.
Yet the desire, the longing for God—this remains. No thoughtful human can deny it . . . The desire is real, and it is breaking our hearts. Yet in our incapacity to believe we find ourselves staring, paralyzed, as the love of our lives disappears into the distance.
Most people if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy. I am not now speaking of what would ordinarily be called unsuccessful marriages, or holidays, or learned careers. I am speaking of the best possible ones. There was something we grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in reality. I think everyone knows what I mean. The wife may be a good wife, and the hotels and scenery may have been excellent, and chemistry may be a very interesting job: but something has evaded us.
Built into life is a strong vein of irony for which we should be grateful to our Creator. It helps us find our way through the fantasy that encompasses us to the reality of our existence. God has mercifully made the fantasies—the pursuit of power, of sensual satisfaction, of money, learning, of celebrity, of happiness—so preposterously unrewarding that we are forced to turn to him for help and for mercy. We seek wealth and find we’ve accumulated worthless pieces of paper. We seek security and find we’ve acquired the means to blow ourselves and our little earth to smithereens. We seek carnal indulgence only to find ourselves involved in the prevailing erotomania. Looking for freedom, we infallibly fall into the servitude of self-gratification or, collectively, of a Gulag Archipelago.
–Malcolm Muggeridge, Seeing Through the Eye: Muggeridge on Faith