As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God? (Psalm 42:1-2)
God created humanity in such a way that it is utterly impossible for anyone to thrive apart from Him. The affections of every person were uniquely fashioned for their Maker. Just like Adam we do have a choice as to whether we will honor the way we were created and direct the depths of who we are toward glorifying and loving God, but we must understand that there is nothing we can do to change the way we were made. We were created by God and for God. To those who love God this is glorious. Yet to those who hate Him and rebel against this design, the truth is profoundly offensive. No matter what they do, they cannot cease to be human, and thus they will forever be plagued by tormenting unrest. Regardless of how violently one may try to assert their independence, they can never purge from their soul the implicit need to adore and obey God in order to be complete.
From this intrinsic need for our Maker flows powerful yearning expressed in three primary desires woven into the fibers of our being. We long to be consumed and absorbed in the pleasure of receiving and giving our love to One far greater than ourselves. We crave fascination with piercing, unending beauty that so thrills and astonishes our senses that we are continually overwhelmed. We yearn to be an integral part of an adventure of grand and epic proportions in which we give ourselves fully and unreservedly to a noble cause.
So it is that day after wearisome day we go about panting and groaning for something that will satisfy these desires that lie at the heart of who we are and dominate our inner man. Yet our problem is that we have gone astray, and wander about fumbling aimlessly for anything to quiet the screaming voice of yearning in our souls.
On and on humanity goes in its feeding frenzy, devouring anything within its reach that promises some measure of gratification. Yet in the folly of a hamster on its wheel, regardless of variety or volume of consumption, the torrent of desire cannot be quelled, and the gnawing ache persists. The problem, of course, is qualitative and not quantitative.
Throughout history, the world and its desires have always had an enticing appeal. Men have ever sought power, wealth, fame, and adulation in varying measures because by nature they were no different than us in the extent of their yearning. However, the unprecedented abundance of resource, together with the rise of the technological age, has created an environment that has awakened the incessant want of the human soul in unparalleled measure. Whereas in previous eras the limitations of travel, resources, and communication severely checked the groping of the affections, in the modern Western world these parameters have almost completely vanished.
Though particularities can never satisfy, regardless of quantity, the masses do not perceive this and in blindness continue to constantly demand increasing stimuli. Feasting on nearly endless fodder, the average American is steadily becoming impossible to pacify. Everything must be faster, bigger, and brighter – a new restaurant with bigger portions and better atmosphere, a new blend of coffee with better flavor, a television with a clearer picture, a smart phone with added features, a more luxurious vacation destination, a newer and faster car. On and on it goes, and yet no one stops to consider the insanity of the unending pursuit of more.
Nowhere is the innate groping in the heart of man being targeted and exploited like the secular entertainment industry. Food, coffee, clothes, gadgets, and belongings all touch us in a measured way and retain appeal, but only in an outward and secondary way. It is images and ideas that truly pierce us because they speak not to the external appetites but to the deep internal yearnings of the heart. “Binge watching” has become a phrase that needs no explanation. Let that sink in for a moment.
Though it affects all ages, right now an eighteen-year-old is inundated with a constant stream of words, sounds, and images all aimed at seducing their affections and arousing the strongest desires of the heart. Our generation is barraged with pictures and stories aimed directly at the limitless capacity within us for love, beauty and greatness. What is so confusing and dangerous about this is that the powerful feelings evoked by these things are part of who we are by God’s design, but instead of being directed toward true fulfillment they are exploited by fleeting fantasies with no substance.
More than ever before, things that evoke the deepest desires of humanity can be set before the eyes in a way that seems larger than life. The gap between what people want and the reality of their actual lives yawns wider and deeper than ever before. Walking out of a movie theatre the masses are hopelessly lost in a maddening pursuit of something that feels so inescapably real but proves impossible to find with the constraints of their lives. Increasingly the disparity between these two extremes of ‘want’ and ‘have’ is producing currents of sin and rage that are shaping the landscape of the earth and throwing the nations and the Church into crisis.
As the Deer is an old song. If you grew up in the Church you’ve probably sung it hundreds of times. Yet its words are more urgent than ever before. There is a dire need for the Church to direct all of its thirsting toward the living God rather than drinking from broken cisterns (Jeremiah 2:13). Anger at the tormenting futility of the hollowness of the modern world is mounting. Our generation is desperately looking for something that will actually satisfy. We have the answer. Let us pant for God alone.