“But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out and saying, ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them’ ” (Acts 14:14,15).
THE TURNING THAT GOD REQUIRES OF US IS A MATTER OF HUGE IMPORTANCE, BUT VERY FEW OF US LOOK AT IT IN THE WAY IT SHOULD BE LOOKED AT. Turning to God is something we view with reluctance. We see it as being difficult and probably quite unpleasant. Some even seem to see it as unnatural. In truth, however, the God who calls us to repentance is calling us simply to let go of the “useless things” that have been holding us back. The things we’re being asked to leave out of our lives are merely our liabilities, things that in the long run can never do anything but hurt us. What kind of fools are we to refuse God, the ultimate source of all satisfaction, in order to hold on to “empty things which cannot profit or deliver” (1 Samuel 12:21)?
One reason we’re so reluctant to let go of our sins is that we fail to see the depth of satisfaction that is available to us in God. Our sins are like the water from the well in Samaria. “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again,” Jesus said, “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst” (John 4:13,14). Next to the empty things in which we invest ourselves, God is a satisfaction so superior as to defy comparison. If we ever saw, even for an instant, what it might mean to “never thirst,” we would give all the world to have that gift.
Yet we have no adequate appreciation of what God can be to us. “Divine Love, if we were satisfied with You, we would climb to the highest heavens. If we were smart enough to leave everything to You, we would achieve the summit of holiness” (Jean-Pierre de Causade). God has never required anything but what will do us good, and what He forbids is only what will disappoint us. Before it’s too late and the time for our turning is past, we need to open our eyes to what can be ours. Can we not see the astounding wonder of the “exchange” we’re being offered?
“We find it difficult to give up our desire for things that can never satisfy us in order to purchase the One Good in whom is all our joy — and in Whom, moreover, we get back everything else that we have renounced besides!” (Thomas Merton).