Recommended Reading: Dissatisfied vs. Unsatisfied – What is the Difference?
I will be brutally honest: I often have an issue with instant gratification. This morning was just another instance of my desire to have what I want right now. In October, we moved from a 2,000 square feet home to fulfill a desire to live along the river. That meant moving into the current house on the property, which is only 900 square feet. We knew we would build onto this house and anticipated construction starting in December. Most of our belongings, including clothing, are in storage.
Then came lots of unanticipated delays; variance boards, water permits, and lots of bad weather. It is now April and the construction isn’t even 20% completed. So, today was the day that I thought the framers would certainly arrive. At 6:40 AM, I laid in bed and listened for the sound of trucks or hammering. At one point, I was sure I heard some noises and I bounced out of bed like a kid on Christmas morning. I was hugely disappointed to realize that no one was here.
Now, I know I sound like an incredibly spoiled person—yes, I am. I have a roof over my head and limited clothing since much of it is storage. I have lived just fine without all of my stuff, but, I want what I want, and I want it now.
In this American society, we demand instant gratification. Yesterday there were only two cashier lines open at Walmart. It was lunchtime and I was hungry. I had just spent 30 minutes looking at food! I didn’t want to wait. Later that day, my husband was uploading pictures to the internet and our server was working slowly. My emails took what felt like forever to load. Frustration loomed.
These thoughts and experiences led me to read Finding Spiritual Freedom in an Imperfect World: Blessed Are the Unsatisfied by Amy Simpson. The opening sentence threw me for a loop:
“I’m a Christian, and I am unsatisfied with my life. I hope you are unsatisfied too.”
Simpson grew up thinking that “Christians should be happier than everyone else, fearless, and consistently radiant in our peaceful stroll towards heaven, all of our longings fulfilled.” Yet, Simpson’s mother suffered from a serious mental illness, so her life just didn’t match her expectations. Sound familiar? I appreciate the vulnerable and real disclosure that Simpson shares with her readers.
Her honesty even includes her relationship with Jesus. “The closer my relationship to him [Jesus], the less satisfied I am with that relationship.” I highlighted that statement in her book as that describes my underlying restlessness.
Jesus doesn’t keep us from suffering or unfulfilled longings. The author suggests that we “embrace the blessings of an unsatisfied life” as only God can satisfy our souls. Full satisfaction is something to be anticipated in the eternal realm, not in the here and now. The pursuit of satisfaction is our daily reminder that we are in need of God.
This book outlines the various ways that seeking satisfaction is harmful to us. The one that I want to emphasize is the value of suffering. I too grew up with a mother who was seriously mentally ill. My childhood was traumatizing and painful. I prayed for God to stop the abuse, but it never stopped.
As a child, I couldn’t see the big picture. No, I do not believe for one moment that God had me suffer as part of His plan. I believe He wept with me. But, looking back now I see how suffering molded, shaped, and even gifted me. As a counselor, I now have the empathy and understanding to sit with people in their pain. I have a deep spiritual walk because I have a God who gave me resilience and hope even in the darkest times.
I think it is important to acknowledge that Simpson makes a distinction between dissatisfaction and unstatisfaction She writes:
“While dissatisfaction implies either rejection or frustrated pursuit of satisfaction, unstatisfaction is something more like acceptance combined with anticipation.”
This made sense to me. In childhood, I had to accept that I lived in a very dysfunctional family. But, I tried my best to keep my eyes fixed on the blessings of the moment: my Nana who was my safe place, animals who gave me unconditional love, books which gave me another world in which to escape, and nature which led me to God. But, I also lived with anticipation. There would be a day when I could go out into the world and choose to live life a different way.
Simpson doesn’t just leave us unsatisfied without showing a way to live life with this intention. She suggests that we learn to “get comfortable being uncomfortable.” The following are but just a few of her suggestions:
- Embrace the habit of expressing gratitude, as gratitude and discontentment are incompatible.
- Live a life of purpose and meaning even though we might feel unsatisfied. How can we pay more attention to what we give to the world than what we might receive from the world?
- Allow unsatisfaction to lead us to seek out healthy and life-giving relationships with others.
- Pursue personal growth. Welcome God’s transformation rather than fighting change.
- Don’t allow happiness to become your God. Of course, we want to be happy to banish negative emotions. But, what if our emotions are not who we are? What if we just rode them like a surfer on a wave? We know the wave will eventually become a calm spot in the ocean. What if we choose to see some of the good things about riding the wave?
- Decide to live a contented life; accept what we can’t change.
As I reflect on this book and my own life, I do so recalling one of the most difficult moments of my adult life and am thankful for the new perspective it brings me. I encourage you read, Blessed Are the Unsatisfied.
I leave you with this prayer that helps me live an unsatisfied life:
The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life and
supremely happy with Him forever in the next.