Return to Your Rest: A Meditation on Psalm 116:7

“Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you” (Ps. 116:7).

Only in the Lord do we find the peace, satisfaction, and rest that our weary souls so desperately yearn for.

I think it’s safe to say that what every person wants is to live life and be happy.  Every decision we make is made out of the belief that some good will come of it.[1]  Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal put it this way:

All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.[2]

No sane person intentionally makes decisions that he or she believes will fail to lead to greater happiness or fulfillment in their lives.  The reality of this truth, however, has led me to ponder why we continue to sin.  The conclusion seems to be that we believe there is greater happiness and fulfillment outside the loving arms of our heavenly Father.  As fallen human beings, we believe the lie that stolen waters leave us more satisfied. They don’t.  They leave you empty inside.  We have a God-shaped hole inside us and the only one big enough to fill that void is the triune God.  Or, to use Pascal’s words, “the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God himself.”[3]  Thus, Augustine cried, “our heart is restless until it rests in you.”[4]

Don’t believe the lie that something or someone can or will satisfy you like your Creator.  This has been mankind’s greatest sin since ancient times.  Through the prophet Jeremiah God indicted his people with these words:

Has a nation changed its gods,
even though they are no gods?
But my people have changed their glory
for that which does not profit.
 Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the Lord,
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water
(Jer. 2:11-13).

Trying to live a fulfilled life apart from God is like trying to fill a broken container with water.  It won’t work.  Yet this is what we constantly try to do.  We were created to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.  Our greatest delight is to walk in intimate fellowship with him.  Attempts to fill the God-shaped void in our souls with things of lesser beauty reveal that we are on the prowl, desperately seeking satisfaction.  This is what we’re after.  After all, “No one sins out of duty,” as John Piper says.[5]  Trying to fulfill eternal longings with transitory pleasures leads to vacuity.

When we give into temptation and sin, the problem is not that our desires are too strong and therefore impossible to resist.  The problem is that our desire for joy is not strong enough.  Paraphrasing C. S. Lewis, John Piper writes, “Our mistake lies not in the intensity of our desire for happiness, but in the weakness of it.”[6]  Here’s how C. S. Lewis put it:

If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.[7]

The Bible portrays created beings as thirsty souls longing for a satisfaction and refreshment that can only be found by gazing at the panoramic perfections of an all-glorious triune God.  Captivated by his ineffable love, man’s response should be like that of the sweet Psalmist of Israel, yearning to “dwell in the house of the LORD forever to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD” (Ps. 27:4).  Pause and give thanks to the Lord today because he has provided all we need in Christ Jesus.  The good news of the gospel is that we get God.


[1] This point has been made by numerous philosophers.  See, e.g., Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics (trans. F. H. Peters; NY: Barnes & Noble, 2004), 1. 1; Blaise Pascal, Pascal’s Pensees (trans. W. F. Trotter; NY: E. P. Dutton, 1958), 113, thought #425.

[2] Pascal, Pensees, Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 113.

[4] Augustine, The Confessions of St. Augustine (trans. John K. Ryan; NY: Doubleday, 1960), 1. 1.

[5] John Piper, A Godward Life: Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life (Sisters: Multnomah, 1997), 137.

[6] John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Sisters: Multnomah, 2003), 20.

[7] C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), 1-2.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: