I Searched for Satisfaction in All The Wrong Places

Tim Arndt

13 Amish Cows

My best friend is Amish. But he wasn’t always Amish. We met in 4th grade on our long bus route and became fast friends. Now he’s a dairy farmer and he and his wife spend their time tending to their farm where they milk thirteen cows and sell bottled milk, cream, and butter. In a recent conversation, he told me “We live on a hill near the coast where we see beautiful sunrises and sunsets. We work hard, make a fine living, and go to sleep satisfied. We’re spoiled.” In many ways, I envy him.

You see, I’ve always had a hard time feeling satisfied. In a way, I could say my life has been a constant search for satisfaction. Though I’m no king, I think I understand what Solomon meant in Ecclesiastes 1:17 when he said,

And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.

Solomon sought satisfaction in both good things and bad but ended up further and further from what he was pursuing. He was a man who knew all the right answers in his head but still pursued vain things. Likewise, I’ve always known that true satisfaction can only be found in God, but that didn’t keep me from trying to find it everywhere else.

Where I've Looked for Satisfaction

Doing Something Great

More than anything else, this has been a life-long pursuit for me. I’ve always wanted to do something “great.” I’m not like my friend. I’m not content with sunrises and good sleep. I want to accomplish something huge! Even when I became a true follower of Jesus, this unquenchable desire never left.

At some point a couple years back, I realized there was a major flaw in my desire. I didn’t want to do something great for God’s glory or the benefit of others. My desire to do something great was really a desire to be recognized. I wanted a reason to be proud. I wanted to be worshipped.

And the reality is that even if I did manage to accomplish something “huge,” whatever that may be, it wouldn’t satisfy me. Even those who have won an Olympic Gold, a Nobel, an Emmy, or a Grammy don’t live the rest of their lives in satisfaction because of their past achievement. It feels great reaching the top of Everest, but no one ever stays up there.


I’ve always deeply loved music. I used to spend hours every day practicing piano and listening to my favorite songs. Some music is so beautiful it can awaken a sensitivity in your heart that you didn’t realize was there. Some music resonates with your hurts and wounds so well that you feel the music relates to you better than any person. But the song always ends and the feeling fades.

Being A Good Person

I’m a recovering Pharisee. I’ve always been “the good kid.” Even prior to being a believer I worked hard at being good. I had good grades. I didn’t say bad words. I read good books. I volunteered. I even read my Bible every day. But none of it brought me any lasting satisfaction. I felt unfulfilled and unsatisfied.

New Things

I’m not a rich person, but that doesn’t free me from the love of money and things. There are so many things I want—things I’m convinced will make me happy—like a new sound system, a new truck, a new phone. Making the purchase is thrilling. Excitement builds as the wrapping is torn away. At last, I hold in my hands the thing that promises to bring me joy and happiness. But give it a month, a week, even a day and the thrill is gone faster than it came.

How to Find Satisfaction in God

Like I said, I’ve always know that I am supposed to find my satisfaction in God, but the problem is knowing how. Over the past couple years, I think I’ve really broken ground in this area in my life. Let me try to express to you a thought that has transformed my life and my relationship with God.

All Things are Mirrors

None of the things I listed above are inherently bad. In fact, the Bible tells us that God loves to give us good things. The problem doesn’t lie in the thing, but in us. You see, in this life, we can’t see God face to face, but we can see Him dimly in a mirror (1 Cor 13:12). Look closely. God’s mirrors are everywhere.

When God gave me my wife, Alex, he gave me a very good thing. I should rejoice in being married to the love of my life and childhood sweetheart, but ultimately it should lead me to rejoice in the God who gave us to each other. She is a mirror for God’s glory and when I look at the right angle I can see God’s goodness.

When we take a relationship, a car, or an award and only see our own reflection, we commit idolatry. When we are obsessed with how this thing is going to make us look and feel, we are left only with an unsatisfying look at ourselves.

C.S. Lewis nailed it when he said,

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

Nothing in this world will satisfy when we look to the thing itself. But if we look beyond the thing, we can find the source of all beauty and fulfillment, God Himself. I’ve found it imperative as a Christian to be thankful. Because fulfillment does not come from receiving good things, but in a worshipful relationship with the giver of all good things.

The author of Hebrews tells us,

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” –Hebrews 13:5

The greatest good in life is knowing the God that will never leave nor forsake us. Whether I am rich or poor, God will satisfy. Whether my dreams come true or fall to pieces, God will satisfy. Whether I change the world or milk cows, He will satisfy.

For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. -Psalm 107:9

Tim is a lifelong student and loves nothing more than a good conversation on faith and truth. He is the chapter director of Ratio Christi at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan (his hometown). He has spoken on dozens of topics at various universities, high schools, churches, and non-profit ministries. He has a BA in Worldviews and Apologetics from Boyce College. He has a passion for equipping the church to be effective in reaching out to their community. Tim, his wife Alexandra, and children MaryKate and Oliver attend Allendale Baptist Church where Tim also works as an administrative assistant. Anyone who meets Tim easily remembers him as the tallest Filipino they've ever met.

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