I was twenty-two years old when I first realized the price of my happiness was too high. I had met some Christians in a small Russian village who, although struggling to obtain life’s most basic necessities, were happier and more content than I was. They taught me that true joy, peace, and fulfillment are the result of properly valuing what we already have, especially our relationships with others and God. They helped me realize I didn’t need all the things and circumstances I thought I needed in order to enjoy life.
Jesus taught us that the highest quality of life (abundant life) is being in a state of communion with God. It’s not found in financial stability, accomplishments, reputations, good health or a trouble-free existence. As I mentioned in my last article, the quality of our lives is based on what we’re tuned into more than what happens to us.
So how do we tune into the divine frequency? How do we deepen our communion with God?
There’s an old story of a young man who visited a wise old holy man. The young man said, “I want to see God. Show me how I may experience God.” The holy man ignored him till he finally went away. The next day the young man returned and repeated his request. Again the holy man ignored him until he eventually left. The following day the tenacious youngster came back. “Please sir, I really want to know God. Show me how I may experience God.”
The holy man stood up, led the young man to the lakeshore and waded out into the water. Once they were both in the lake, the old man asked the lad to get on his knees. The young man complied and the old man grabbed his head with both hands, pushed it under the water and held it there. The young man struggled, thrashing about more wildly as time passed. When he was finally released, he stood up gasping for air. The holy man waited a few seconds and calmly said, “I apologize for any anxiety I have caused you but tell me, why did you struggle so while I held your head below the water?”
“Why did I struggle?” he shouted. “I was unable to breathe! I thought I was going to die.” The wise old man smiled and said, “The day you desire God as desperately as you desired air, you will find God.”
The popular life coach Tony Robbins says until we turn our “wants” and “shoulds” into “musts,” nothing in our lives will change. For most Christians, communion with God is something we want, or believe we should have. But until communion with God is something we must have, we’ll keep investing our time, our focus and our energy elsewhere, on our higher priorities, on our “musts.”
Unfortunately, many of our “musts” are ego-based and not in line with our real needs or best interests. Sometimes struggle and suffering are the only teachers capable of awakening us to what our souls really need. Why else would Jesus say those who are poor, hungry, grieving, and persecuted are blessed? I think Jesus is saying, at least in part, that struggle and suffering are beneficial in that they can help us get in tune with our deepest needs, especially our need for a loving, gracious, healing God. As C.S. Lewis famously put it, “Pain is the megaphone of God.”
Jesus also said wealth, entertainment, gratification and popularity are misfortunes. Why? Because they distract us from our desperate need for God. They numb us to our true desires.
One of my super healthy friends told me he used to eat a lot of chocolate bars and chips. Now, after three years of eating only healthy food, he says he no longer experiences cravings for junk food. His body is tuned into its true desires. His body now craves whole foods with lots of nutrients.
When we tune into our soul’s true desires—we begin to crave communion with God.
To intellectually understand we need God is not enough though. To believe we need God more than anything will not transform us. We must feel the desire. We must experience the need, like the young man experienced his desperate need for air while his head was underwater.
Attuning ourselves to Divine Spirit starts with desire, with making communion with God one of our “musts” in life.
Troy Watson is pastor of Quest. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Part 1 (Sept. 30. 2013 issue)
Part 3 (Nov. 25, 2013 issue)
Part 4 (Jan. 6, 2014 issue)
Part 5 (Feb. 3, 2014 issue)
Part 6 (March 3, 2014 issue)