The Holy Spirit: Learning to Worship God Saves Us from Being Cheated by Idols

My mother-in-law, one of the wisest women I have ever known, summed up the cheat of idolatry this way: “You can never get enough of what you don’t really want.”  It’s what Augustine was talking about when he said to God, “You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”[1]  As Paul pointed out, creation has been subjected to futility by God himself (cf. Romans 8:20).  It is meant to point us to the Creator, not to satisfy. Creation is, by design, like Chinese food:  an hour later you’re hungry again. For we can only be satisfied, not by good things, but by the Good; not by beautiful things, but by Beauty; not by truths, but by Truth.  And that is what and who God is.  So every attempt to make a creature fill the place of God is destined to fail.  There are only three ways of responding to the goodness and beauty of the world that ravishes us and yet never satisfies us.  Two of them are wrong and one is right:

(1) The Fool’s Way.He puts the blame on the things themselves. He goes on all his life thinking that if only he tried another woman, or went for a more expensive holiday, or whatever it is, then, this time, he really would catch the mysterious something we are all after. Most of the bored, discontented, rich people in the world are of this type. They spend their whole lives trotting from woman to woman (through the divorce courts), from continent to continent, from hobby to hobby, always thinking that the latest is “the Real Thing” at last, and always disappointed.

(2) The Way of the Disillusioned “Sensible Man.” —He soon decides that the whole thing was moonshine. “Of course,” he says, “one feels like that when one’s young. But by the time you get to my age you’ve given up chasing the rainbow’s end.” And so he settles down and learns not to expect too much and represses the part of himself which used, as he would say, “to cry for the moon.” This is, of course, a much better way than the first, and makes a man much happier, and less of a nuisance to society. It tends to make him a prig (he is apt to be rather superior towards what he calls “adolescents”), but, on the whole, he rubs along fairly comfortably. It would be the best line we could take if man did not live for ever. But supposing infinite happiness really is there, waiting for us? Supposing one really can reach the rainbow’s end? In that case it would be a pity to find out too late (a moment after death) that by our supposed “common sense” we had stifled in ourselves the faculty of enjoying it.

(3) The Christian Way.—The Christian says, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger well, there is 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 pleasures 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 other country and to help others to do the same.”[2]

[1] St. Augustine, Confessions I.1. Available on-line at as of June 30, 2018.

[2] Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp. 119-120


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