You have your “If Only…” and I have mine. “If only…my work load would lighten up.” “If only I had more money.” “If only I had a meaningful relationship.” “If only I could get caught up on sleep.” We end our “If” statements by tacking on a “then.” “Then I would be truly relaxed.” “Then I’d have what I need.” “Then I’d be happy.” “Then I’d be at peace.” At their heart, these statements reveal a lack of satisfaction—whether acknowledged just below the surface or buried in our subconscious. The old Rolling Stones song, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” could probably play as a background theme for many of us going through half-empty lives.

Some form of the word “satisfy” appears in the Bible nearly 80 times, and the closely-related synonym “contentment” at least 20 more. Apparently our desire for satisfaction is not innately wrong or something to be ignored. The book of Ecclesiastes goes so far as to say, “If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s good things…I say that a stillborn child is better off than he (Eccles. 6:3).” Essentially, Solomon seems to be saying it’s better to not be born than go through life unsatisfied.

All the Wrong Places. What’s “off” is our belief about where we find satisfaction. Behind every if/then statement is a firmly held belief about what will bring us meaning. “If only my work load would lighten up then I’d be able to relax.” What we really believe is that relaxation and comfort will bring satisfaction. They have become idols we bow to, hoping they’ll provide what we desire. “If only I had more money, then I would have what I need.” We believe the nice things money can buy or the security it can offer will bring satisfaction. Our idol is either stuff or perceived security.

But “life’s good things” (going back to Ecclesiastes 6 again) will only satisfy as far as we understand they are merely gifts to be enjoyed and that our ultimate satisfaction is from the Giver of the gifts, not the gifts themselves. Consider the truth of Psalm 16:11 which says, “You make known to me the path of life. In your presence is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures evermore.” The satisfaction being described in this verse is FULL and complete, and it’s eternal, going on forever. And if is from only one source—God Himself.

The Ultimate Test. The question is: do we believe this? On the surface we may say we do. But what comes out in our actions is what’s actually true about us. We DO what we believe. So whatever we do most in life—whether it’s complaining, entering the social media comparison trap, pursuing relationship after relationship, working our tail off or spending time with God—that is what we worship and where we’re seeking satisfaction. Isaiah contains a beautiful promise: “The Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in a scorched place” (Is. 58:11). So if we’re promised satisfaction, why don’t we always experience it?

Why don’t we have it? In Psalm 81, God addresses his people and the issue of satisfaction. He tells them, “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it…I would feed you with the finest of wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you” (vs. 10b & 16). He’s not just talking here about food, but the deeper sense of being truly filled. Sadly, God goes on to describe His people’s response to His offer, “But my people did not listen to my voice…and did not obey me. So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, to walk by their own plans.” Often, we do not come to God open and expectant, asking Him to fill us. We have to be honest with ourselves: are we listening to the Lord, seeking to obeying Him in everything and following His plans? Or are we stubbornly looking elsewhere, not actually allowing Him to prove He’s enough for us?

Sometimes our own sinful cravings get in the way of experiencing the soul satisfaction God wants to provide. Ezekiel 7:10 says we “cannot satisfy [our] appetites because…wrongdoing has become a cause of stumbling.” Similarly, Proverbs 13:25 states that, “The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite but the wicked is in need.” Of course I never want to think of myself as “the wicked” (you probably don’t either) but when we’re in a pattern of constant dissatisfaction, we need to look deeper and see if there is a root sin blocking us from experiencing the promised flow of true joy available to us in the Lord. If I’m being honest, sometimes I’ve allowed myself to wander into paths of sin and it’s in those places that I’m the most unsettled and unsatisfied.

How can we get it? The answer to this question is that true satisfaction comes from God alone. When we seek it there, through a relationship with Christ, we will find the rest, joy and contentment our souls are longing for. To do this we must keep God’s gifts in their proper place. They are to be enjoyed for sure! But we must recognize their limitations and not demand from them what they were never meant to supply. There is a sense in which full soul satisfaction will not be fully realized, in its most complete form, until heaven when we see God face-to-face. So as part of our quest for satisfaction, we need to keep a view of eternity in mind. And yet, there is so much more to be experienced in this life, and so much of it is ours for the asking. May we learn to pray daily with the Psalmist, “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14).