Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever…But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works. (Psalm 73:25-26, 28)
He is better. We so desperately want to believe this, but our desires pull us toward everything under the sun it seems. Asaph stumbled with envy and confusion as he looked at the ease and prosperity of the wicked (Ps. 73:2-3). Then he entered the sanctuary (v.17) and his soul remembered that his portion was better. In all the heavens or upon the earth there was nothing that could compare to the nearness of God. The human heart is the same today as thousands of years ago when Asaph penned this Psalm, or when Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes and lamented the futility the pleasures of this age to satisfy. Yet now we are faced with a constant barrage of temptations those men could have never imagined. The modern world we navigate every day is one of nearly unceasing stimuli, and most of it appears bent on convincing us that we are missing out. From coffee to clothing to food to travel, we have to deal with an onslaught of appeals to our desire for deep, lasting satisfaction. Our hearts drift almost effortlessly into the fantasy that if we just ate that, and our bodies looked like this, and we could go there, then the unyielding restlessness we feel inside would finally be purged from within us.
You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God…Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:4, 8)
We struggle mightily to truly believe that finding God deeply will be far more meaningful and satisfying than the allure of having what the world offers. I don’t think that this is because of how great our present reality is, but rather because of the potency of the myth that our culture is increasingly based upon. The new iPhone, the new restaurant, the new gym, the new show on Netflix – are they really that good? Can we be honest about how pale and paltry our distractions are? And yet we are inundated with the message that a better future is right around the corner, that a better body is at our fingertips, that a better family is just a few parenting tips away, and that beautiful life we long for is within our grasp. This myth hijacks our reach for the transcendent, for what is epic and grand and endlessly fascinating, and redirects it toward a false narrative we imagine playing out over the next decade of our lives. The lie is reinforced through the mirage of social media. We scroll through Instagram and see only the curated moments from other people desperately trying to give the impression that they have figured out the way of obtaining the beautiful life. The rest of their day with all its cracks and fissures are hidden from us, and we are left with the residue of regret and guilt over our inability to procure fulfillment.
It is deeply unsettling to something within us to even think about burning the bridges and reckoning with the harsh truth that we will never find what we are looking for in this present evil age (Gal. 1:4). Never. Nowhere. It is doesn’t matter what house we live in, what church we attend, how spectacular our kids behave, how fit our bodies become, how much notoriety we achieve, how amazing our community is, how affluent our job makes us, or even how much impact our ministry has. There is no personal utopia in this age. It is an illusion, a fabrication. There is nothing that will ever truly satisfy the deepest longings of our soul. We will always be groaning (Rom. 8:23).
Our only recourse, our only path forward is to gather all of our wanting, all of our longing, and hurl it into the promise the Holy Spirit has given us through James. If we draw near to God, He will draw near to us! We can never have the fantasy of the beautiful life in this age, but we can have God. We can know the exceeding joy of His presence resting upon our hearts, and He is better…