When Knowing God Isn’t Enough

{By The Anonymous}

We all feel it at some point.

Some experience it more so than others, but it’s the rare individual who escapes it completely. A deep emptiness, wondering, purposelessness. Confusion as to why our childhood beliefs have failed us. As children, we were told – and we believed – that God was everything; we were promised He would never leave us or forsake us; we were encouraged that life would be hard, but never empty. Reality introduced us a starkly different story.

Our beliefs haven’t changed, but our lives have.

We still pray, but the ceiling seems an impenetrable barrier for the ears of our Savior. We wake up each morning burdened by the tasks of the day, instead of rejoicing in the beauty of our Savior and His salvation. And we’re not quite sure what has gone wrong.

For those of us who were raised on Catechisms and tersely worded answers to complicated theological issues, we understand almost robotically that the purpose – or, “chief end” – of man/woman is to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” John Piper adds slight clarity by editing the phrase to “glorify God by enjoying Him forever.” This straightforward concept satisfies childhood questions and provides direction for the growth of faith and deepening of trust, but eventually most of us cross a threshold, look back, and wonder how we ever believed that six-word phrase would give us meaning. And we hate ourselves for questioning. Who are we to deny the sufficiency of the Almighty God? But we can’t escape the reality that what gave purpose to our childhood is somehow no longer sufficient.

I think the answer lies in an obvious, yet often overlooked principle:

We are created for the infinite, and exist in the finite.

The clash of realms of existence leaves us knowing where we need to go, but hopelessly confused regarding how to get there. The reality of Christian life is that simply knowing God isn’t enough, we were created for more. We were created to exist in the finite with the perspective of the infinite and it is only when we adopt that framework of life that we will find true meaning. What do I mean?

I mean that we can’t go to church, read our Bibles, go on missions trips, pray, live perfect Christian lives in the most sincere way and find purpose. That’s not how we were designed nor is it God’s desire for us. We were designed for this world and this world was designed for us, to find our purpose in it through God. I submit there are four primary sectors of this life God intends for us to find purpose in, and that proper engagement of those sectors inexorably brings us closer to God.

Sector 1: Work

Contrary to popular opinion, work is not a curse. Work is not a result of the fall. We read that Adam tilled and tended to the Garden prior to sin entering the world. Why? Because Adam’s alternative was a royally boring existence sitting under a fruit tree, petting a lion and staring at paradise. That may sound pleasant, but I promise it would quickly lose its appeal. We were created for activity; we were created for excellence. Paul reminds us to complete all our tasks as if we were working directly for God, not for a human employer/manager. Failure to specialize in a skill – pastoral ministry, homemaking, sciences, arts, there is no limit – and to find meaningful labor will leave us purposeless and confused, because it denies an integral part of the human being, created specifically that way by a sovereign God.

Sector 2: Community

Prior to the fall, Adam was living in paradise. He had perfect communion with God, he walked and talked with God daily, he named hundreds of species of living creatures and had an incredible garden home. And all that wasn’t enough; pure, un-filtered connection with his Creator wasn’t enough. Adam was lonely, alone. We see a glimpse of why this is true in the nature of the trinity. In the infinite wonder of the Godhead, three in one, God fellowships with Himself. He finds joy in Himself, He loves Himself, He is jealous for Himself. There is a divine communion in the Godhead that we were meant to imperfectly imitate on earth, a purpose that is impossible to fulfill without connection to other human beings. Eve was created to commune with Adam, marriage was instituted – among other rationales – to provide the deepest type of communion humans can have with each other, churches exist because faith cannot survive on its own. Humans were made to exist in proximity to each other, and we find contentment, rest, satisfaction when we are in community.

Sector 3: Pleasure

This is not referring exclusively to Eros, though I suit Eros has an important place in fulfilling a god given desire for pleasure. What I refer to here is fun, enjoyment, Philia. It is fascinating to note the wording of Gods witness to the identity of Christ after baptism by John. God doesn’t simply attest to the deity of Christ, or command those present to ‘listen to him’; He positively – and almost unnecessarily – adds that Christ is one ‘with whom I [God] am well pleased’. The existence and mission of Christ on earth brought perfect pleasure and fulfillment to God the Father. Existing as imperfect images of a holy God, we are custom designed to find purpose in pleasure, in the excitement of a promotion at work, in time spent with friends. We aren’t being prideful when we enjoy success, we aren’t denying God due gratitude when we publicize an accomplishment. Rather, it’s when we artificially stifle the idea that we can find satisfaction or happiness in personal achievements that we deny ourselves access to a key piece of fulfillment and purpose.

Sector 4: Rest

Post-creation, God didn’t need a rest. He never experiences fatigue, never tires, never sleeps. Why the 7th day of rest, then? Because, in His infinite wisdom, He knew that we – finite, weak, feeble human beings – would need a day of rest. This is not an exhortation to ‘keep the Sabbath holy’, that’s an entirely different can of worms. Rather, this is a reminder that we need to take a break. We need to sleep, we need to do absolutely nothing, we need to figuratively [or literally] stop and smell the roses. Rest opens our mind; it tears away our myopic view of success/achievement and reminds us of who we really are and what our true role ought to be in this world. In that moment, we find true purpose. Purpose will never be found chasing a lifestyle of ‘whoever dies with the most toys wins,’ purpose is found in working, resting, and being content with what we have accomplished. If we find purpose in success for success’ sake, we will run ourselves into the ground chasing a mirage because success is definitionally a relative term. Realizing that we were perfectly designed for rest by a God who knows slightly more about true success than we do and embracing times to unwind mentally and physically gives us purpose. We are no longer defined by what we achieve, but by who we are in the sight of God, and no promotion, paycheck or other accomplishment will change that reality.

Four sectors of life every one of us will encounter, four areas that are so often sidelined in pious – and futile – attempts to find life purpose. We will never find true fulfillment on this planet if we ignore what has been created with the intention of giving us purpose. It is not heretical to argue that we must value things of this world; Our God is enough, but we – as finite creatures – must find some medium to relate to the infinite. We find that connection not in abstract spirituality, but in physical activities that channel a truer, fuller picture of who our God is and what He desires of us.

That is true purpose.

 

 

Comments

  1. Cassia Wagner says:

    Ecclesiastes 1:2-4 ~ Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher;
    “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
    What profit has a man from all his labor
    In which he toils under the sun?
    One generation passes away, and another generation comes;
    But the earth abides forever.

    Ecclesiastes 2:1-3 ~ I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure”; but surely, this also was vanity. I said of laughter—“Madness!”; and of mirth, “What does it accomplish?” I searched in my heart how to gratify my flesh with wine, while guiding my heart with wisdom, and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the sons of men to do under heaven all the days of their lives.

  2. Cassia Wagner says:

    Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 ~ Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
    Fear God and keep His commandments,
    For this is man’s all.

    I don’t disagree that we were designed for community pleasure, rest, and work. But to suggest that we can find fulfillment outside of God alone is not backed up by Scripture.

    • I agree with you Cassia! Fufillment comes from God alone. [Good use of Scripture, btw]. But my understanding of what the author was trying to say, was that God created these four mediums *through which* we can know Him or find fufillment in Him. That because we are creatures caught between realities, “knowing God” has to be translated into the finite realm and God has provided for that through the four sectors of work, rest, community, and pleasure. Do you agree/disagree?

      Side note, to the Anonymous author: feel free to correct me if my interpretation of what you were saying is wrong.

  3. The Anonymous says:

    Cassia,
    I find it fascinating that you choose Ecclesiastes as proof that we can only find fulfillment in Christ, because when you look at The Preacher’s background, he tried finding purpose in work, pleasure, etc, as independent goods, as ends, not means for finding true purpose. That is the differentiation between a Christian and anyone else. Non-Christians HAVE to find purpose directly in their activities, because they either don’t believe or refuse to believe there’s anything more. Christians look at work, look at rest, look at community and pleasure and see their Savior. They see perfect design for their well being and worship their God for His wonderfulness. That’s the difference: our purpose comes through God alone, but if you read what I wrote in the post, we need – and he has provided – connections to Him that allow us to experience purpose more fully.

  4. An anonymous reader (: says:

    This is a really great piece. I don’t know who you are, but you have a gift with words. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  5. I have so enjoyed all of your articles – they always make me stop and think and this one was wonderful! I really liked what you had to say about pleasure – ‘Rather, it’s when we artificially stifle the idea that we can find satisfaction or happiness in personal achievements that we deny ourselves access to a key piece of fulfillment and purpose’ – I thought that was a really good point. So keep up the great work! You truly have a wonderful way with words and a lot of wisdom. Thank you!

  6. To know God is to know everything that you need. It is the implementation of that knowledge with actually pleasing God Himself, that differentiates a fulfilling, satisfied life from the tumultuous life devils that believe in God, also, live. So, I believe in your title, but not in the sutile hint that God is not enough for a person. He is, and can be, if, and only if, that person is to worship Him and love Him with all their heart, mind, and soul.

  7. When knowing God is truly not enough, then nothing can be enough for that person, if even God can not be “enough”. I would say that person really doesn’t “know” God, then. The personal relationship that Jesus displayed, and others in the Bible displayed, shows that their level of intimacy with God was enough. So, the goal of the individual is to get to know God on the level that He desires you to be, not the level which you are unsatisfied with. Fulfillment in seeking God comes in many differing ways for each individual. Each individual is unique, and is personally loved by God in a special, unique way, also. Growing in our relationship with God, is what we all can experience, but, sad to say, many will neither ask Him for help, nor knock on that door that will open to them the eternal life that is for them from Him.

  8. My experience in knowing God began with others showing me something about myself, and my realizing many “Truths” in my experiences in life. I would attribute this opening of my intellectual understanding to actually God helping me. Without belief in the unseen, we are just cases of people with a soul that is meaningless, lifeless, and incoherently plodding along a long and winding road of icky emotions, which we can ignor, guess at, or fight with until the body we live in dies. If I exist, then the possibilities are enormous that God exists. I don’t stop believing in a concept of there being a God of this universe of miracles, just because someone hypothesized the concept of “evolution”, and the scientific world went, “Wow!” I didn’t stop there. I found the people who had other knowledge of God, and had evidence to the contrary that showed me otherwise. Besides, who wants to believe that my soul in this body should not be important to me, and the spiritual world doesn’t exist because it is not examinable by science, because of it’s invisibility? Duh. No-brainer. When we ask Jesus Christ (the real-life Messiah, not a swear word) to help us, save us, and come into ours lives that are messed-up, He does. Like a birth, we get to know Him and God. It is not overnight! He shows us Himself, God is revealed to us, we grow with Him, are forgiven of our faults as we ask Him to, and work with Him from then on, with the Holy Spirit enabling us to gain knowledge appropriate to any task, temptation, stumbling, and battle, that our lives take after that introduction. But, life is to be lived with, and only with, His direct involvement, to be exhiliratingly fulfilling, challenging, and promising. Don’t compromise with your “thought” enemies, not matter what form they take. Ask His Spirit to guide you, and He will. Only be patient and kind with yourself, first, and know that you are getting to know the God of the universe that you really do want to know. Just as a baby learns the language of it’s parents, then all of a sudden, starts speaking, we, too, must learn of God, and develop that good and wholesome relationship that He wants with Him.

  9. Such a good blog. Exactly how I felt, and I’ve read so many that haven’t hit the nail on the head. I still feel depressed and Beatin down. Could anyone give advice or talk?

    • Anonymous (Author) says:

      Jonathan — Thanks for commenting; I’m glad this spoke to you on some level. Depression is an unfortunate reality for many people – myself included – and its cyclicality only makes daily life more frustrating; just when you think life’s getting better, you drop back into the dark. I’ve dealt with this for years, and likely will continue to experience it for the rest of my life, so please understand that what I say below is not from some ivory tower of perfection and judgement. This is merely what I’ve found to help me survive and I sincerely hope it helps you.

      1. Find a spiritual mentor. I’m not referring to the pastor who will quote Bible passages at you and remind you that it’s the Christian’s goal to be perpetually happy and joyful. That’s a load of crap. But there exist individuals who have gone through what you’re experiencing, have figured out at some level how a Christian ought to respond, and have discovered adequate (if not entirely satisfactory) answers to the questions that plague us. Search for those people at your church, or find a new church and look for them there. They exist. Ask someone if you can get coffee with them and talk. It will feel awkward at first, or at least it did for me. But I always left those conversations with hope that I could survive another day / week / month. Because I know the God who helped my mentor survive, and He can do the same for me.

      2. Connect with other people. This one is scary, I know. And I’m not suggesting that you make friends and immediately open up to them. Because people have a very bad habit of being pretty damn hurtful. Put up a facade if you must, initially, but identify who you can trust, and begin to develop those friendships deeper, let your real self show, and let those people journey with you. There will always be a risk of hurt, always the danger of vulnerability, and sometimes the hurt materializes. But I firmly believe the bond formed with the people who haven’t hurt me far outweighs any hurt others may have inflicted.

      3. Wrestle with God. I think it’s very easy for us to become disenfranchised with a childhood God who has somehow failed to live up to our expectations. And I think it’s very very important for us to fight with that God, to be angry at that God, to determine for ourselves who God really is and what He means to us collectively and individually. Because the simple reality is that childhood faith doesn’t cut it in a world full of irrational evil and crazy. Absent a personally forged comprehension of God’s promise to us despite the shit that surrounds us, depression will paralyze us. Discover who you are, discover who your God is, and re-evaluate your experiences through that framework. I believe there exists a God who I can trust, who I can never be angry at, because he promises me that the end will make the journey worthwhile. It’s not all roses and unicorns, I can tell you that. But there is a guiding light through the tunnel that will eventually bring you into the sun.

      I really hope this is meaningful to you; please believe that this life holds beauty yet unseen. It’s rarely obvious, but it exists and I believe you will find it. Don’t try to make it alone; find a mentor, find companions, and find your God. That trio will support you through anything.

      – Anon

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