In my last blog I wrote about the similarities found in a recent article and a very ancient book about our never-ending search for happiness. The conclusion of both were the same…you can’t ever really grasp happiness, it’s like chasing after the wind. But what is so alluring about attaining happiness anyways? Psychology Today states that “Happiness, once achieved promises longer life and more financial success.” Wait a second…didn’t we just go through this?(in the last blog) If money doesn’t bring us happiness, why do we want a longer life to enjoy a reward that isn’t rewarding?! And so the vicious cycle continues… discontent with our lot in life and seeking a happiness that we cannot possess is probably the greatest cause of unhappiness in the world today.
However there must be a catch…because there are some happy people in the world. Ultimately as Christians we know that true happiness and contentment are found only in Christ. As St. Augustine puts it “Our hearts are restless till they find their rest in Thee.” But what about all the things in life that bring us enjoyment, like family and friends and beauty, travel and adventure, good food and drinks and fellowship, and chocolate and skiing and comfy beds and fluffy pillows. How do we walk the line of enjoying life without falling into the trap of wanting more and more of that thing that makes us happy…and ultimately that thing that brought us some joy, will take us right back to the cycle of chasing after the wind. Ooof this is getting to deep…my brain hurts! Whenever things get too complicated for me to wrap my head around, my little pea brain seems to automatically drift to simple analogies.
So….Think about a giant pile of delectable cupcakes. Flavors like red velvet, strawberry champagne, and bourbon chocolate with caramel frosting. (All of which I just indulged in at my friend Sonny’s wedding!) Imagine you have picked out your cupcake and as you unwrap the paper from around the cake, your senses are heightened in delicious anticipation of the moist rich cake and the gooey sweet frosting. But as you take your first bite you taste nothing, and as you continue to eat the cupcake you can feel the cakey texture in your mouth, but there is no rich chocolaty taste…actually there is no taste at all…it’s kinda like eating soft flavorless sawdust! Now really craving that delicious cupcake, you try another one…but you still can’t taste it. Not to be discouraged you eat another and another…because you know the delicious satisfaction that a cupcake should bring, and you continue eating tasteless cupcakes your entire life, hoping that one of them will satisfy you… but you just end up fat, depressed and discouraged. What if…when you picked out your first cupcake, what you didn’t know was that your taste buds were broken, and even though all the delicious flavor did exist in the cupcake, you had lost your ability to enjoy it.
King Solomon explains my cupcake idea like this. “Behold what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of life that God has given him. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possession and the power to enjoy them, to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil – this is the gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 5:18-19. He goes on to say that if a God gives a man wealth, possessions and honor, but if God does not give him the power to enjoy them it is better if he had been born dead. This is the man who spent his whole life eating tasteless cupcakes! You see the God given “power to enjoy”, is like having taste buds that give us the power to enjoy the cupcake. In the end you didn’t need seven hundred cupcakes, you just needed the ability to enjoy the first one…or two!
I think everyone experiences this…maybe not eating by eating cupcakes, but we have all experienced something that promised satisfaction and left us disappointed. Don’t you have that place you go (or person or thing) where you can almost always be pretty darn happy? For me it is any quite, remote place outside, and when the moment is right, — while hiking or skiing in the backcountry, or biking on a quite country road– I can experience an almost holy sense of joy in the great outdoors. But there have been times when I have gone to that breathtakingly beautiful place, but I can’t really enjoy it deeply. I can look at it and know the scenery is wildly beautiful, but I can’t feel that heart aching sense of joy that belongs in that moment. I think this is where God has to unlock our hearts to see beyond the beautiful landscape, to see past the thing or the person, and to see Him as the Master Creator and the giver of life and joy. It is this unlocking of our hearts, (like the turning on of our taste buds) that gives us the ability to find real joy in that moment, whether its enjoying beautiful creation, or in having a good conversation with friends, seeing your little nephews smile, or enjoying a lovely meal and glass of wine.
I think when our hearts are unlocked and we have “Power to Enjoy”, we also receive a perspective of thankfulness which leads to a heart of contentment. Or maybe it’s the other way around…a thankful heart lets us enjoy a contented life. Either way…Knowing that every good and perfect gift comes from above, we can be thankful for our Heavenly Father who loves to give good gifts to his children. And we can be thankful that we can reciprocate His love and generosity to others, thankful for family and friends, so that we can learn to love and be loved. We can be thankful for our eyes and ears through which we can enjoy beauty, and be thankful for our bodies that can breathe and move and feel. Be thankful for our hearts that can be filled with love. All of this is like being thankful for our taste buds that allow us to taste, enjoy and find contentment in that one cupcake of life.