As I have traveled around the world this past month, I have thought a lot about the human condition and what people are looking for. From airports to cafes, from sprawling third world cities to the center of political power in the world, from spiritual holy cities to rural villages to schools and orphanages and all along busy streets, I have watched and talked to people. I have asked questions and prayed and observed. People are looking for peace and success and a better way to live. They are looking for prosperity and a sense of control over things in their life and they are looking for love and acceptance. Some people want to be powerful, but most just want to get through the day. Some want transcendence, but most just want hope.
I have traveled thousands of miles and have traveled through mountains and to villages and along rivers and coastlines. I have sought to do good and to be the man that God wants me to be. I have experienced and learned a great deal over this past month – too much to put into words. I have been surprised and challenged and I have seen new things and old things with a new perspective. But, through it all, God has always been there speaking. Today – this morning actually – His Word came into my heart in a new way. As I was getting ready to leave my hotel along the coast of Haiti, I had this strong sense that the words in my mind were from God. They were Scripture, actually, even though I didn’t quite realize it at the time.
You have put gladness in my heart, More than when their grain and new wine abound. (Psalm 4:7)
After everything is said and done, the most important thing is that we know the Lord. And, I don’t mean that in some kind of devotional sense in the way that people just flippantly through out the words that Jesus is most important. I mean that – and what I think God was showing me – is that God’s greatest desire for us is that HE fill our hearts with joy and our lives with His love. God wants to invade every part of us and fill us with His joy. He wants to put gladness in our hearts – more than wine or anything else that we can experience in this world. This does not mean that God’s gladness is completely separate from human experiences. We can rejoice in the blessings of this world in a godly way by giving thanks for every good and perfect gift. But, what I think that God was showing me is that He actually wants to fill our hearts with gladness and joy in all of the deep, broken places. He wants to be our foundation and our companion and our hope and our strength. He is with us always and He is in us and Christ in us is our hope of glory (Col. 1:27).
I have had a revelation of Jesus Christ over this past month as I have taught through Ephesians twice amongst leaders and pastors/evangelists in India and Haiti. As I have traveled and processed and studied and asked questions and taught the Bible, the truth about Jesus has buried itself deeper in my heart. God has put gladness in my heart. He is at work. I have to give Him praise.
As humans, we try to find our gladness/joy in so many different places. We desire transcendence because we know that we were made for another world or for something else that seems just outside our grasp. I have been reading C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity on my travels this week in preparation for a short talk that I will give at Huntingdon College next week on Lewis and his evangelistic emphasis, and his Argument from Desire struck me again as absolutely true:
“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 . . . Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, then there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same.”
The things that we find pleasure in here on earth never really satisfy us. They just arouse more desire. They are echoes of the life that we really want – the life to come. People want success and prosperity and safety and love, but I am more convinced than ever that what they really desire is God – but their desire has gone haywire and has headed in many broken directions. What we all need is for God to put gladness in our hearts and to fill us with His presence and joy. We need for God to fill ever crevasse of our hearts with His love. The great news is that He wants to do that very thing through His Son, Jesus Christ, and His salvation that changes absolutely everything about us.
But, will we let Him?