The Dilemma of the Heart One of the dilemmas that every human heart has to grapple with is that we feel strong longings-of-the-heart that are aroused by this world but cannot be satisfied by anything in this world. The Christian faith offers a powerful and healing solution to this dilemma of the heart. Let me explain.
Strong and Inescapable longings of the heart
Our interaction with this world – its diverse people and beautiful places, its smells and sounds and surprises, the glory of its music and art, the subtlety of its food, the mystery of love, the challenge of our great task before us – awakens strong longings and desires of our heart. C.S. Lewis called these longings “Joy” and defined “Joy” as “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.
The dilemma is this: We cannot control when these longings will be triggered and we cannot capture them. Many things in our world promise satisfaction of the longings of our heart, but, as Lewis points out, they never quite keep their promise. The deep, acute, longing of our heart remains unfulfilled. Have you experienced this dilemma of the heart?
There are basically three solutions for dealing with this dilemma of the heart.
First, is the solution of the hedonist. Now, by hedonist, I don’t mean the person who is living a wild and reckless life full of drinking, gambling, drugs, women, etc. I simply mean the person who is fundamentally committed to finding happiness in this world. Lewis puts it this way: “He goes on all his life thinking that if only he tried another woan, or went for a more expensive holiday, or whatever it is, then, this time he would really catch the mysterious something we are all after.” (Mere Christianity). The problem with this solution is that nothing in this world is ever able to satisfy the deep and acute longings of your heart.
Second, is the solution of the cynic. The cynic says, “This world is not able to meet your deep longings and desires so stop looking for them to ever be met. There is no ‘living happily ever after’ or a ‘prince who sets you free with a kiss.’” The cynic looks down at the desires and longings of youth as “immature.” She learns to repress her own longings and desires and she settles into a life of low expectations. The problem is, this slowly erodes the childlike hope of the human heart and calcifies into the cool detachment and aloofness of the cynic.
Third, is the Christian way, the way of faith.
C.S. Lewis puts it this way:
“The Christian says, ‘Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is a such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly desires were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others do the same.” (Mere Christianity)
The Christian faith makes sense of and legitimizes the longings and desires of our heart. At the same time it deconstructs the places we go to find their satisfaction. It makes the radical claim that only Jesus Christ – who is the bread of life, the spring of living water, the light of the world, the way, truth and life – can fulfill our deep and acute longings, partially (in the here and now) and completely (in the age to come).