No man can be without his god. If he have not the true God to bless and sustain him, he will have some false god to delude and to betray him. The Psalmist knew this, and therefore he joined so closely the forgetting the name of our God, and holding up our hands to some strange god. For every man has something in which he hopes, on which he leans, to which he retreats and retires, with which he fills up his thoughts in empty spaces of time, when he is alone, when he lies sleepless on his bed, when he is not pressed with other thoughts; to which he betakes himself in sorrow or trouble, as that from which he shall draw comfort and strength–his fortress, his citadel, his defence; and has not this a good right to be called his god? Man was made to lean on the Creator; but if not on Him, then he leans on the creature in one shape or another. The ivy cannot grow alone: it must twine round some support or other; if not the goodly oak, then the ragged thorn; round any dead stick whatever, rather than have no stay or support at all. It is even so with the heart and affections of man; if they do not twine around God, they must twine around some meaner thing.
—Richard Chenevix Trench
How is it that the country which most ruthlessly sought to eliminate religion in the last century is now poised to become the most Christian nation in the world? Approximately 65 million lives were eliminated in China last century in an unparalleled attempt to plant materialism firmly in the hearts of the Chinese people. It failed disastrously.
It is not known exactly how many Chinese Christians there are, but a conservative guess now estimates that there are at least 65 million Protestants in China and 12 million Catholics—more believers than there are members of the Communist Party. Some Chinese Christians think the number is well over one hundred million. Furthermore, China is now the biggest publisher of Bibles worldwide.
The communist revolution was not exactly successful. To endeavor to imprison people within the narrow confines of a materialist worldview is a hopeless task. To claim that there is no supernatural order to the universe, that there is nothing beyond the four bare walls of the physical world is a hideous lie that ultimately will not stick.
People have an intrinsic need for meaning, for transcendence, for some kind of connection with the spiritual realm. It’s in our DNA. It’s written in our hearts. This inner thirst can never be satisfied by merely indulging our physical senses. There’s a longing within us that the material world cannot satisfy. The Bible describes it with these words: “He has also set eternity in the hearts” (Eccles. 3:11).
Religion is under attack in the West. Forces such as New Atheism have risen up to replace Christianity with a purely naturalistic worldview. China tried that and it failed (not to mention several other countries where the experiment also crashed and burned.) It didn’t work in the East, and it won’t work in the West. People simply cannot be contained in such a suffocating prison.
–J. O. Schulz
In the midst of the suffocating self-love of our modern and postmodern culture, the Bible is clear that our real hunger is to know the one true God revealed in its pages. Only in doing so will we satisfy our cravings for security (faith), find the purpose for which we exist (hope), and be able to live free from slavery to self (love).
To meet these needs, we must return to the [God of the] Bible. It really is that straightforward.
– Scott Hafemann
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.
Seeing Through the Eye: Muggeridge on Faith
The centre of me is always and eternally a terrible pain . . . a searching for something beyond what the world contains, something transfigured and infinite – the beatific vision, God – I do not find it, I do not think it is to be found – but the love of it is my life . . . it is the actual spring of life within me.
–Bertrand Russell, Philosopher and atheist
Most people, if they have 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 that no marriage, no travel, no learning can really satisfy. I’m not now speaking of what would be ordinarily called successful marriages or vacations or learned careers, I’m speaking of the best possible ones. There is something we have 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.
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
–C. S. Lewis,
There is within us a fundamental dis-ease, an unquenchable fire that renders us incapable, in this life, of ever coming to full peace. This desire lies at the center of our lives, in the marrow of our bones, and in the deep recesses of the soul. At the heart of all great literature, poetry, art, philosophy, psychology, and religion lies the naming and analyzing of this desire.
The Holy Longing