EARTHBOUND GOALS LEAD TO FRUSTRATION
Robert Burns penned some insightful lines many years ago:
But pleasures are like poppies spread–
You seize the flower, its bloom is shed.
We tend to get involved with people, activities, and things with a great surge of energy and pleasurable expectations.
I once watched in amazement as a young lady who had gained weight steadily, suddenly proceeded to shed twenty-five pounds.
She was to be a bridesmaid in a wedding. After the wedding, her weight started to climb again.
A boy who aimlessly spent his allowance on bubble gum, candy, or gadgets for his bicycle suddenly was interested in all the odd jobs he could get so he could save his money.
His father said he could buy a car.
We all know of young men who were normally careless about their appearance but who became eager to bathe, comb their hair, or wear a suit. They became interested in a particular girl.
We watch people who “fall in love” suddenly go places and do things that no one could have forced them into.
We watch people work two jobs, stop spending money on clothes, drive a cheaper car, or do anything else if they decide to save for college, or to get married, or to buy a house.
In airports, we can see eager people waiting for the arrival of a plane. They pace up and down, eyes shining, highly elated. When the expected person shows up, they get all excited, clap their hands, jump up and down, fly into each other’s arms, hug and kiss, oblivious to anyone else around them, and walk arm in arm toward the baggage claim area eagerly talking together.
Anticipation fans our expectations. Our hope is that reaching an objective will result in great satisfaction and pleasure. Then, after several months or years of effort, we end up disillusioned.
Many people have made plenty of money but have no good reason for spending it. Shopping malls are full of people aimlessly wandering from store to store, not looking for anything in particular, perhaps ending up eating something or buying something they don’t need.
Others have developed their talent and ability and now have no desire to use it. Many people approach me these days about changing careers. They have learned a trade or a profession, but receive no satisfaction from their work, even though they are using their talent and the pay is good.
Some people can’t wait to retire so they can pursue a life of leisure, yet thousands of them, retired and on a good pension plan, are hopelessly bored with luxury and ease.
There are many surprises for a counselor. For instance, a very unhappy man asked me for counsel. He had nothing to live for. What made this a particularly pathetic case was the fact that he was a multimillionaire, owned more than a dozen manufacturing plants, and had hundreds of employees.
He was a rabid student of management, and had all the duties and responsibilities related to his business delegated to competent, highly trained people.
Why, then, would he show up in a counselor’s office? He had delegated himself into uselessness. No one needed him. He was lost without his responsibilities and bored without them.
Many beautiful, healthy, affectionate people end up in the consulting room because there is no one they want to please or respond to. Marriage has turned to ashes.
Family life doesn’t satisfy, they say.
Couples are abandoning marriage and their families by the droves. The demands of the relationship are too great, so either the husband or wife lashes out at the other or just walks away and abandons the whole thing.
GOOD GOALS DON’T SATISFY
I have described some goals that should have satisfied, but they didn’t. Let me list some:
- Making money
- Acquiring things
- Building your own business
- Retiring with a good pension
- A trim figure
- Using talent and ability
These are all good goals. Everyone must make a living and provide for his future. We all need to do what is necessary to maintain health and use our own talents and abilities. Who would quarrel with having marriage and a happy family life as a goal? Surely everyone who has worked until age sixty-five or seventy is entitled to an easy retirement.
Isn’t it strange that after years of sincere effort pursuing good goals, multitudes of people still end up in the consulting room looking for meaning and purpose in life? I am reminded of what King Solomon said:
I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind (Ecclesiastes 1:14).
And I have seen that every labor and every skill which is done is the resulted rivalry between a man and his neighbor. This too is vanity and striving after wind (Ecclesiastes 4:4).
His gloomy conclusions have a strangely modern ring to them. I hear almost the same words in the consulting room:
”I’m fed up with competing.”
”I end up frustrated after all these years of hard work.”
”I’ve poured my life into this family and nobody cares.”
Doing good things all your life is like climbing a steep section of a mountain trail. It only gives you aching muscles unless you keep the peak in mind.
Doing good things only gives meaning and purpose if in the doing of them you keep the real long-range goal in mind.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10).
This will be a great day if you have kept the greatest commandment of all:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37).
If you love Him that much, you will have done as Jesus asked us to do:
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments (John 14:15).
If you know and keep the commandments, it means that in the process of making a living, making money, acquiring an estate, using your talent, keeping fit, maintaining a marriage and a family, you do it all in a way that pleases Jesus, whom you love and who one day will evaluate you.
If your behavior, your conversation, your reactions, your mind, and your goals are pleasing in His sight, the day-by-day duties will have meaning and purpose.