Isn’t it strange how, in this world, we grow up thinking that one day we are somehow going to be good at living? As we get older, we expect for things to be a certain way, we expect to obtain certain things, and finally we expect to become certain things. We understand, of course, that the means to getting to those points might be a little rough. But man, once we get there, we believe that everything will suddenly fall into place for the rest of our time spent here.
It sounds kind of crazy saying it that way, but isn’t that exactly what we tell ourselves?
“[Reality] is not neat, not obvious, not what you expect.” – C.S. Lewis
Reality is just not that simple.
We live as though our next accomplished goal is the be-all end-all of life. I (as a college student) study day after day, month after month, and semester after semester to get that diploma, to get the job of my dreams. And to be happy. I (as a girl) started, at a young age, learning how to put on makeup, do my hair, and develop my personality and mind to land the guy that would hopefully lead me through the rest of my life. And to be happy. Even I (as a Christian) learned early on in my relationship with Christ that day in and day out I need to act my best, do good things and love people to display Christ fully and well. And to be happy.
I’m not saying that any of these things are bad in themselves, all of these things are actually very good, when pursued with the right mindset. In fact, I’d dare say that being joyful is evidently commanded of us in the Bible. But, problems start to arise when we use temporary passions to replace an eternal satisfaction.
Psalm 16:11 is explained one way by John Piper –
“In fact, not only is there no conflict between your happiness and God’s glory, but his glory shines in your happiness, when your happiness is in him. And since God is the source of greatest happiness, and since he is the greatest treasure in the world, and since his glory is the most satisfying gift he could possibly give us, therefore it is the kindest, most loving thing he could possibly do — to reveal himself, and magnify himself and vindicate himself for our everlasting enjoyment…God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him.”
It took me a long time to find a reason why I should be purposefully joyful, and it took me an even longer time to believe in it and establish it in my life as the fuel behind all other reasoning for things that I do. I think it is so easy for us to stop at our hard-earned short-term happiness and be ‘satisfied’ instead of looking beyond those ‘inclinations’ at the real purpose of our lives.
I’ll give you a real life Ashley example.
Ever since I was a wee little girl, love was the cliché and seamless antidote to an awkward and confusing childhood. I expected all of life’s problems to melt away once I found the ‘man of my dreams’. I would finally be able to start my own problem-free family, have that perfect white-picket fence, and feel warmth in my soul when my life joined with another’s. But, I never thought about the inevitable family conflict, the splinters that often come with securing that fence, or the fire of argument and hardship that is a sure fixture on the many different aspects of marriage.
I just thought about getting there and being happy.
There was never a crack in that perfect fantasy until a few+ years ago. In high school, I had been in a relationship with a guy that, in my mind, was ‘the one’. After about a year and a half, the relationship broke and so did my idea that a man/love was the only thing that could truly make me happy. All of the lies from romance novels and rom-com films that had been branded in my mind as the true ultimate goal in life suddenly meant nothing. I realized that the end of my story was not going to be and should not only be ‘Girl gets Boy’.
I quickly picked up the broken pieces and started hunting for the truth.
Yet again, I was looking for something that would end up being the source of my life-long happiness. Little did I know that this hunt for a worldly joy would lead me to the actual source of true eternal joy (Psalm 16:11).
Life is much more complicated than just the sum of its parts; our true eternal joy is indeterminately more intricate than piecing together all of the small, unfulfilling pleasures in life. Our lives are not just about accomplishing all of the earthly goals we set for ourselves so we can obtain the short-term and futile status of ‘happiness’. Life is not that obvious, it is not that neat and it is definitely not that predictable. If we live with this idea, it’s going to be really easy for us as human beings to fall into sorrow and despair after our accomplishments fail to deliver the falsely promised perpetual happiness time and time again.
I dare all who read this, just as I dare myself, to think about every purpose behind every one of our actions and compare it to the reason we’re really here, which is to glorify Christ and find full satisfaction in His embrace.
The comparison is so very pale.