Vintage Saints and Sinners by Karen Wright Marsh, Free for CAPC Members
In Vintage Saints and Sinners, Karen Wright Marsh manages to emphasize the vast goodness of spiritual giants while also humanizing them.
Research says we are bombarded by thousands of marketing messages a day. The average number of ads seen per day varies by source, from a low of 5,000 to a high of 10,000. But once in the thousands, whatever the true count may be, it’s significant. And these aren’t just crafted advertisements—some come in the form of overt ads but most are covert branding and product placement, sneaking in when we aren’t even aware. Whatever their form, these ads, at their core, tell us we don’t have what we really need until we have they’re selling. We are told—thousands of times a day, millions of times a year—that our current state is lacking.
It’s no wonder we feel unfulfilled. It’s no wonder so many of us are just like Alexander Hamilton, never satisfied.Living unsatisfied is the reality we know deep down and no longer need to cover with a shiny veneer.
This unsatisfied state may seem like a problem to be solved, but according to Amy Simpson, being unsatisfied offers unexpected blessing. In Blessed Are the Unsatisfied: Finding Spiritual Freedom in an Imperfect World (InterVarsity Press, 2018), Simpson proposes that our heart’s discontent may be signaling something other than a crisis:
I’m a Christian, and I am unsatisfied with my life. I hope you’re unsatisfied too.
You see, I don’t subscribe to the common belief that once our souls get right with God, we will be deeply, completely satisfied in this life we’re living. In fact, I think the opposite is true: the more we know God and find ourselves longing for what he wants for us, the less we feel truly at home in the places and times we inhabit. (1)
Could it be that in pursuing Jesus our heart’s discontent will actually grow? If that’s the case, the way Christians have shared the gospel may need some adjusting. Simpson explains:
Christian teachers and leaders point out the shortcomings of what this world can offer us and point people toward Jesus with a faulty promise. “Only Jesus will satisfy,” they say. The satisfied life is found in living God’s way, and when we come to him for fulfillment we will find it. But Jesus doesn’t fulfill all our longings in this life. (4)
While most Christians freely embrace the idea that the world doesn’t satisfy (although most of us—including me—still face temptation to seek satisfaction in various ways in this world), many do believe the remedy is to seek satisfaction in a relationship with Jesus. And they believe that remedy will make their longings disappear. As long as we are in relationship with Jesus, he will fill that “God-shaped hole” inside us, and once that hole is filled, we will no longer ache with desire or longing or a nagging sense of dissatisfaction or spiritual suffering. We have no shortage of Christian pastors, teachers, and other leaders telling us this very thing. While the world doesn’t satisfy, they say, Jesus does.
The trouble is, while knowing and following Jesus has its priceless rewards and leads to complete satisfaction, it won’t deliver on this promise now. (10)
While these words may be tough to chew, there’s a heft to them, affirming the validity of Simpson’s assertion. In the chapters that follow, Simpson helps the reader explore various ways that living unsatisfied is not so bad as we’ve made it out to be. Even more, living unsatisfied is the reality we know deep down and no longer need to cover with a shiny veneer.
Each chapter upends previously held notions of satisfaction, recast as a blessing, such as the blessing of need (chapter 1), the blessing of company (chapter 5), and the blessing of anticipation (chapter 8). In the final chapter, titled Satisfaction Is Coming, Simpson’s beautiful prose casts a vision for how we are to live our days as the blessed unsatisfied:
Let us not deny our hunger for a world made right or reject our thirst for an end to the rebellion in our own hearts. Let us cultivate the habit of desiring God’s glory and the fulfillment of his plans rather than our own. Let us habitually believe all those desires will be met in glorious fashion. For those of us who tend such longings, our future will be completely satisfying. We will never go hungry; we will never pant with unsatisfied thirst. We will no longer fill our days with pointless activity; we will not chase after things that will destroy us. The infinite abyss within us will be filled with infinite righteousness and unfailing love, and our restless souls will be truly at home. (169)
We need Simpson’s message today. Our world—including, oftentimes the church—offers us endless, false messages about how and when our hearts should find rest. The news that satisfaction is coming, just not yet, frees us from guilt, shame, and worry. And it gives us a more truthful way of sharing the gospel to all who need hope.
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