8 Blessings of the Unsatisfied Life

8 Blessings of the Unsatisfied Life

Amy Simpson noticed early on that the tidy claims of Christianity were not lining up with the reality she was living at home. Suffering from the impact of her mother’s serious and debilitating mental illness, her family was certainly not strolling toward heaven with all their needs met and a smile on their faces. In fact, even though they seemed to be “doing the Christian life” according to all the patterns and prerequisites, their family was always just shy of “normal” and the provision they experienced always just short of enough. Unsatisfied with government cheese and feeling deprived on every level, Amy’s childhood was characterized by unmet longings and the dream of a “normal” life.

At this point, standard issue story-telling practices beg for an ending tied with a bow:  college, marriage, a successful career, and a loving family of her own–all a straight arrow toward deep satisfaction. However, in Blessed Are the Unsatisfied: Finding Spiritual Freedom in an Imperfect World, the reader is caught up in paradox, for even though many of Amy’s personal and professional goals have been met, she confesses that she still lives “with a kind of unsatisfaction that will not be lifted in this life.”

If this is (secretly) your experience as well, find companionship with the writer of Ecclesiastes and take hope from these words from the author:

“Jesus doesn’t fulfill all our longings in this life. Instead, he offers us his peace. Jesus does not remove us from the fog of death and the ongoing consequences of human rebellion against God. He does not give us a ‘get out of suffering free’ card.” (4)

The moments of satisfaction we experience on this planet are transient at best. Here, we live in the tension of embracing the blessing of an unsatisfied life in which contentment lives alongside longing, and where we rest and rejoice in the given without succumbing to a Pollyanna-ish form of optimism.

Living unsatisfied is acres and acres apart from living dissatisfied, for nothing is ever acceptable to the chronically discontented soul. “Dissatisfaction is an active–sometimes even purposeful–absence, rejection, or refusal of satisfaction in a context where satisfaction is expected. It breeds discontentment, contempt, and a feeling of emptiness. And it is miserable.”  By contrast, an unsatisfied life combines acceptance with anticipation in an “embrace of the God-shaped vacuum in us, . . . a healthy hunger that is content to wait for the feast.” (41)

With this mindset, Amy Simpson shares 8 blessings that accompany the unsatisfied life:

1.  The Blessing of Need

Unsatisfaction is a reminder that we need God. No matter how gifted or “together” I am, my self-sufficiency is insufficient for living Christ-like and for managing the disappointments that come. Moses knew it and tried to warn the nation of Israel:

Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied,then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery…”

2.  The Blessing of Perspective

If I can be satisfied by clicking “Add to Cart,” I will not go looking for answers beyond my next purchase. However, living in an awareness that there is NOTHING (even on Amazon!) that will slake my cravings and fill my emptiness, my ears are open to the voice of God, and my heart is looking for answers in the intangible Truth of Scripture.

3.  The Blessing of God’s Heartbeat

My longing heart is the puzzle piece that will connect with the big picture of God’s family and with humanity at large, a collection of longing people, all with their own disconnected edges. When I stop longing for a better world and miss the needs of others, I’m a corner piece, hanging off the edge of the picture and missing the truth of God’s great love and HIS ache for the disconnected and the hurting.

4.  The Blessing of Focus

If you’ve heard the plaintive refrain of U2’s “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” and identified with the serial disappointment of chasing after the visible and the temporal, you know the importance of turning our eyes toward the unseen–“for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 

5.  The Blessing of Company

My  husband and I have tried to portray this truth to our kids with the old adage: “People who are all wrapped up in themselves make a pretty small package.” And it’s obvious:  if I’m satisfied with my own company and that of a few safe others, I’ll never venture into the unknown. Living unsatisfied pushes me into community.

6.  The Blessing of Growth

Back in the 90’s my co-workers and I rolled our eyes at employee meetings that were basically pep rallies for the latest Continuous Product Quality Improvement initiative. As annoying as institutional rah-rah-rah can be, the notion of continuous improvement is a line from the playbook of Scripture and the unsatisfied life of the Apostle Paul: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14)

7.  The Blessing of Vision

Amy recalls a joint project in which her own predominantly white church partnered with a predominantly African American church with both congregations enjoying “fellowship” staked out on opposite sides of a cafeteria. She remembers thinking that this was unnatural and wrong . . . but inertia won out and she stayed in her seat instead of reaching out and mingling. I want to be unsatisfied with “as is” so that I will keep dreaming about how things could be.

8.  The Blessing of Anticipation

Every once in a while my boys will ask with a sleepy voice, “What’s for breakfast tomorrow, Mum?” I’ve stopped asking them why they want to know, because I remember from past experience:  they want to know what they have to look forward to in the morning, and when you’re a teen boy, food is a pretty big deal. Anticipation is risky, but if I remain immune to the sadness of loss that comes with death or if I fail to enter into the reality of God’s promises, still pending fulfillment, I may fall prey to the short-sighted notion that redemption is limited to what my eyes can detect today and that this temporary world is my real home.

Sustainable Faith Is Expectantly Unsatisfied

The Sermon on the Mount, with its pronouncement of blessing upon the most unlikely of people, lands like an indictment on the ears of those who prefer to thrive on their own terms. Sometimes it’s easier for us to lower our expectations and to live disappointed and without hope than it is for us to embrace an uncomfortable hope. The truth is, however, that the only sustainable Christian life is one in which we give up the chase, embrace delayed gratification, and lean into the blessings of living unsatisfied.

Many thanks to IVP Books for providing a copy of this book for my review which is, of course, freely and honestly given.

Additional Resources

Amy Simpson was featured on one of my favorite podcasts, the February 15 edition of Quick to Listen. Click here to listen as she answers questions about her book and about issues surrounding mental illness and the church’s response.

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase,  Blessed Are the Unsatisfied: Finding Spiritual Freedom in an Imperfect World simply click on the title here, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Every blessing,

39 thoughts on “8 Blessings of the Unsatisfied Life”

  1. For some reason, I’m homing in on the eighth blessing today, Michele. Maybe it’s because I frequently get texts from my girls asking, “What’s for supper tonight?” Food is a big deal for teen girls too, it seems. 🙂 Lilly will even tell me … “Now I have something to look forward to,” once she hears what’s on the menu. One thing this past year with my mom has done for me is increased my anticipation of heaven. Her death–whenever it comes–will be a sad loss, but she will be whole, forever at home with her good, good Father. You’re right … redemption is not limited to what our eyes can detect today. This sounds like a very thought-provoking book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Isn’t it sweet to have this time in which we can really meet our kids’ needs in a big way? And dealing with end-of-life stuff with our parents drives home the truth that there’s only so much we can do to bring help and comfort to our much-loved families.


  2. Michele, this sounds like a very thought provoking book. Love this perspective. So true that if this life were perfect and all our desires were met, we would never need God. This is something I will be pondering today, this unsatisfying life (which I think we see more clearly as we get older) and how it benefits us. God does really work all things to our good. Even our unsatisfaction.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And I also appreciated Amy’s perspective that any satisfaction we find in this life, no matter how hard won or earnestly sought, is, at best, fleeting which is just one more example of how important it is to turn our hearts toward eternity.
      Thanks, Theresa, for reading!


      1. I had a mother who was depressed through much of my childhood and a brother 4 years younger who was mentally and physically handicapped. These dynamics made a significant impact on our family system and especially me since my dad was away working and my mother relied heavily on me.


  3. This reminds me of a C. S. Lewis quote something to the effect that if I don’t find satisfaction in this world, that’s indication I was made for another. But I never thought of flipping that around to actually look for the blessings of unsatisfactions. And I love the distinction between dis- and un-satisfaction.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for making that connection, Barbara! I’m a little disappointed with myself for not including that quote in my review!
      And that distinction was extremely helpful for me as well, and it helps so much in understanding Amy’s point.


  4. I am writing about blessings this month and perspective is definitely one. Being unsatisfied just means Jesus is the only one who can satisfy us, in spite of what goes on around us. I too have seen the effects of illness and depression in my family, I don’t think His joy or satisfaction has to be fleeting, we just have to allow Him in even more as trials come.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, there’s always enough Jesus for anything we’re going through. It’s our own ability to welcome Him into our situation and our failure to be completely satisfied with Him in this life that keeps us always longing.


  5. I think all of us can relate to this… the world is …well, unsatisfying. but then maybe that’s the point, right? we need to discover (sometimes the hard way) that our affections can be attached to this world. That’s why Paul told us to set our eyes and hearts on things about not on earthly things” thanks Michelle!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, we persevere in our wrong thinking in spite of biblical evidence to the contrary, even putting a Christian spin on our error by insisting that Jesus in our life will result in ultimate satisfaction. While the Christian life give meaning and perspective, we certainly were never meant to settle into a perfect life on this planet!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Good grief, you’ve done it again! I have to read this book because reading your post has already encouraged my unsatisfied heart so much! I love to think that unsatisfied is not the same as dissatisfied. I’ve often felt guilty about being unsatisfied when that is exactly the way I should feel. Great post! Thank you for sharing it with us at Encouraging Word Wednesday!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Love this! “Jesus doesn’t fulfill all our longings in this life. Instead, he offers us his peace. Jesus does not remove us from the fog of death and the ongoing consequences of human rebellion against God. He does not give us a ‘get out of suffering free’ card.”

    Often we are romanticised into believing that we are entitled to be free from suffering.



  8. This sounds like a book that is needed in this world today. It reminds me of some of the lyrics in a song by Downhere called “The Last Amen.” “Somewhere in the grand design, it’s good to be unsatisfied. It keeps the faith and hope a little more alive.” And yes, there is a big difference between unsatisfied and dissatisfied. Blessings to you, Michele! Thanks for sharing with us at the #LMMLinkup.


      1. Well, that group is now disbanded because they needed to be with the families more. So I don’t know how on top I am. Though my sons are often introducing me to new music.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi, Michele! Over at “Life on the Road Less Traveled” I’m developing a blogroll for caregivers of dementia patients (like myself). Would you mind if I added a link to your site (and particularly this post) to the blogroll? Thanks!


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