I Wonder If We’re All Spiritually Insane

A few weeks ago I met a twenty-eight-year-old woman who told me of a struggle. Growing up, she longed for a good husband, a nice family, and a moderate house.

Shortly after college, she married a really good man. They found good jobs in their fields. They bought a nice house. A year later they got pregnant and had a healthy baby.

She had all she had wanted but she still felt restless.

They bought a newer car. They repainted the house. They added granite countertops; then stainless steel appliances. They were promoted. Her husband got an MBA. She quit her job and become a full-time mother. It felt good but the satisfaction didn’t last.

Soon, again, she felt discontent and restlessness. She asked herself, “Is this all there is?” She saw the same restlessness in her friends. Then she read an Einstein quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.

She said, “I wonder if we’re all spiritually insane.”

We all know people…

We all know people who live frantic lives of restless discontent:

  • The mothers who push kids into piano classes; then the travel soccer team; then the chess club; then the school play; then A/P English. They are frenetic.
  • The young man who is like a serial boyfriend, always looking for the “right” girl. None has satisfied yet, but he keeps looking, night after night. He is restless.
  • The pastor who grew a congregation from 100 to 300 and now wants 500; or has 500 but wants 1,000. He can’t sleep at night.
  • The addict who lights up one more joint or does another line of cocaine, but it’s never enough. Tomorrow he does it again.

It’s easy to see frenzy in others. They grasp for different things. What about you and me? How often do we think, “If only my wife would stop nagging (or my husband would start doing dishes),” or “If only she loved me,” or “If only we had a deck out back”?

The pause

The young woman told me that she had everything she wanted, but it wasn’t enough. Her marriage, family, and home were great, but they didn’t satisfy her soul. She said,

“This time around, I’m going to pause in my discontent and rest in my restlessness.”

(I told her she was a genius, on par with Einstein. She said, “Thanks! That feels great.”  A moment later she said, “Oh no. The feeling’s gone.”)

I tried the pause

I decided to try her challenge, pausing in my discontent and resting in my restlessness. I sat at my desk and made a list of my “If only’s:” writing a bestselling novel, taking a month-long Caribbean scuba vacation, or owning a 16-person retreat center on a lake.

I asked myself, “How much happier will I be if I get them?” and “How much less happy will I be if I don’t?” My answer was, “Probably not much. They won’t satisfy for long.” So why do I restlessly push for them?

I must be spiritually insane. As I reflected on my insanity, I read a C. S. Lewis quote,

Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these 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. We 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 (Mere Christianity, chap. 10, emphasis added).

It’s right and normal to want food, love, homes, families, relationships, and careers. But satisfaction of these desires will never bring the deep soul satisfaction we crave.

Because we were made for another world.

Leaveable and bearable

John Newton said, “If we really knew the future glory for us, it would make the best times leaveable and the worst times bearable.”

That is the deep spiritual longing of each heart and soul; we long for a satisfaction so rich that the very best times will be leaveable and the very worst things will be bearable.

Phew! Frankly, I’m sick and tired of repainting the house.


P.S. Try my friend’s challenge. Take a few minutes and a pen and paper, and write down the things you go to for satisfaction. Then ask, “How much happier will I be if I get them?” and “How much less happy will I be if I don’t?”

What do you think?

  • In this moment of your life, what are your longings of which you say, “If only…”?
  • What “satisfactions” have you had that only satisfied temporarily?
  • In what ways might you be “spiritually insane?”

21 Responses to I Wonder If We’re All Spiritually Insane

  1. Jody says:

    Sam Williamson, that is good stuff right there!! Carry on my friend.

  2. Peter S. Williamson says:

    Important truth, Sam. Thanks!

  3. Christopher Coxe says:

    Thanks Sam, you finally got to the truth. I AM INSANE!!!!!!
    It is definitely a challenge to weed out the world stuff and let God direct our paths. Challenging but fulfilling.

  4. Beth says:

    GDay Sam
    I am at that stage of life where my boys have left home, I am in a brain dead job, and I had not much to do or really to look forward to, I felt on the verge of insanity, same ol’ same ol’, until God put a challenge in front of me, God ” hey Beth why not follow your hearts desire” Me, “really, is that possible.” so I took a step forward picked up my camera and know I have a small photographic exhibition to show my work in November. God delights to give you your hearts desires. It seems God loves to make me smile :-). So my advise from Down Under is, that little insane voice you hear is really God telling you to walk on water. Lol. Step out and follow your heart.

    • GDay Beth!

      Thanks for that beautiful story. I absolutely love it.

      And I love your line, “that little insane voice you hear is really God telling you to walk on water.”

      Have you ever heard of Gary Barkalow and his Calling ministry? I work with him, helping people find their Calling. Stories like yours stirs my heart. If you ever have an interest in understanding your calling more, check out Gary’s book: http://thenobleheart.com/store/ (or you can get a Kindle version at Amazon) and check out the Online Calling Course that Gary and I do together: http://thenobleheart.com/online-calling-course/ (the next class begins next week).

      Thanks again,


  5. Beth says:

    Morning Sam.
    It just so happens that I have met Gary & Leigh when I attended their Calling Retreats here in Australia. I am friends with Gary on FB and he shares your link, this is how I found you. The Calling is a passion of mine, and it is my greatest desire to see people walk in their calling no matter how obscure it may be. It is great to meet you.

  6. “Great art Thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Thy power, and Thy wisdom infinite….Thou awakest us to delight in Thy praise; for Thou madest us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it repose in Thee.”
    St. Augustine, The Confessions

  7. Paul Woodward says:

    Great stuff, thanks I need the redirection again,,,,, and again, Paul

  8. Mary says:

    As I read this, Sam, what came to my mind is that our goal is not always “happiness.” We definitely were made for another world, as you have said, and I believe contentment can only be found in Christ, not in anything this world has to offer. Some of my deepest peace, security and happiness have come in the midst of great earthly trials, when the presence of God was closest to me. My spiritual insanity lies in the fact that I can keep striving after things on earth that seem like they’ll satisfy, instead of having a relationship with the only One who can truly fill the void in my soul.

    • Mary,

      You make a great point. Happiness is not the goal; and frankly, happiness doesn’t last. Deep joy, however, is something we can have in the midst of trials. His joy can suffuse and overwhelm even the harshest of times.

      As you say, the insanity is trying to get that deep joy from the things of the world.

      Thanks, I always appreciate your insights.


  9. I do this, and recently my wife and I have been blessed by not knowing where we’ll be in even two month. There’s a consistent belief held at every level of income that 20% more money would be enough money. It is fantastically freeing when God allows us to see through that lie and rely on him for fulfillment. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Hi David,

      I love the way you say you have been “blessed” as you live in not knowing where you’ll be in two months. That certainly is “pausing in the moment.”

      You remind me of a book I once read by a Harvard economist. The author surveyed Americans and found that over 70% of people making more than $100,000 per year felt they didn’t have “enough” for their basic needs. The irony, of course, is that those people are in the top 1% of all humans in all of history.

      And they don’t feel they have enough.

      We must all be spiritually insane!


  10. Lyle Regan says:

    How easy it is for all of us to feel that feeling. Could it be that when we think we are finally ok with ourselves, who we are,… that the journey has only begun?? Lyle

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