Wednesday was Merle Haggard’s 79th birthday. Ironically it was the day he died.
Haggard has been hailed as a country music “icon.” A “legend” in his own time. “A pioneer.” “A true entertainer.” And “the outlaw of country music.” Haggard did more than sing country music. He lived it.
His troubled youth, brushes with the law and imprisonment in San Quentin are well documented. Johnny Cash advised Haggard to write and sing about the darker side of his life. “Mamma tried,” one of his 40 #1 hits, was an apology of sorts to his hard-working, Christian mother for his rebellious life.
My facebook friend and preaching colleague, Bill Robinson, posted a quote from Rolling Stone by Merle Haggard, “There’s a restlessness in my soul that I’ve never conquered, not with motion, marriages, or meaning. I’ve mellowed a lot, but it’s still there to a degree. And it will be there until the day I die.”
Haggard’s lament, Bill commented, was “what the ancients would have called the ‘divine discontent of man.’”
Bill continued by correctly observing that ” eternity in the heart of man (Ecclesiastes 3:11) cannot be satisfied for it is doomed to restlessness and discontent without a corresponding reality. The only corresponding reality to the eternity in our heart is God himself. However, God cannot fill where he does not dwell and until our hearts are open to him we are discomfited and frustrated by the divine discontent, as we try to fill the eternity in our hearts with the transient and passing things of this physical world.”
This reminds me of a quote often attributed to the 17th century physicist and French philosopher Blaise Pascal, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.”
Pascal actually put this way, “…this desire and this inability proclaim to us, that there was once in man a true happiness of which there now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present? But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself. He only is our true good….”
The apostle Peter penned, “we are partakers of the divine nature.” God has placed within us the desire for more than momentary pleasure, material possession, or majestic position in life.
Money. Fame. Success. Homes. Cars. Clothes. And things. These are all transitory. They are fleeting. And no one knows so well their ultimately lack of satisfaction as he who possesses them and with a restless spirit wonders, “Is this all there is?”
Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life–life in all it’s fullness (Jn 10:10). A rich life. An abundant life. A fulfilling life. Is found in Christ. In reaching our spiritual potential. Of achieving our real purpose in life. And resting in His divine promises.
A. W. Tozer was right when he wrote, “Made as we were in the image of God, we scarcely find it strange to take again our God as our all. God was our original habitat and our hearts cannot but feel at home when they enter again that ancient and beautiful abode.”
To the restless soul, weary, and burdened, Jesus calls, “Come to me, and I will give you rest.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman