God is blessing our podcast Revealing Voices in so many ways and we are confident it will only get better. For one, we’ve managed to score an interview with Amy Simpson, one of the leading Christian voices on the subject of mental illness.
I was first introduced to Simpson’s work through her book Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission. As a pastor who has battled bipolar disorder, I felt liberated reading her passionate and compassionate call to open our pulpits and our pews to the voices and services of persons with mental illness. As the child of a father who served as a pastor and a mother who struggled with schizophrenia, Simpson speaks as one who knows inside and out both the failings and the blessings of the body of Christ responding to persons who too often fall through the cracks.
Her latest book Blessed are the Unsatisfied: Finding Spiritual Freedom in an Imperfect World is not specifically about mental illness or the church, but it is inclusive of both and addresses something much more pervasive. It is a deeply personal book written by a woman of faith who is deeply in touch with the spiritual longing that leaves us unsatisfied in this life. Speaking directly to her readers through the lens of her mother’s illness, she writes:
The persistent anguish of repeatedly losing someone I loved affirmed to me that I did need something more than just a relationship with God in this life. While it’s true God is a mother to the motherless, nothing replaces that missing relationship. And while being essentially motherless is not a fatal condition, it has a lasting impact; it leaves scars that are always sensitive. So if I was going to believe any story about God being with his people and meeting all their needs, it was going to have to accommodate a story like mine.
Simpson carefully distinguishes between unsatisfied and dissatisfied. To be dissatisfied is to look at the past and present with disdain and ingratitude. To be unsatisfied, however, is to appreciate God’s blessings past and present which prompt us to be eager for a future of even more.
So, what about our call to be content in all things? Simpson says it is entirely consistent to be both unsatisfied and content. In fact, she contends, the two go hand-in-hand. Contentment is not complacency that comes from being satisfied in this life. It is being at peace with the God who gives us the ability to be “content in all this,” confident that even better things lie ahead.
Blessed are the Unsatisfied may not make you feel better about your faith, but it will help you honestly deal with feelings about yourself, your world, and your hope. God does not give us what we want anytime we want it. Yet, God always supplies our needs. And in God’s own time, we will discover that our puny earthly satisfactions pale in comparison to the great spiritual blessings ahead.