There I sat, in a fully reclined canvas chair under a cluster of palm trees.
The sandy beach in front of me was like fine white powder bordered by a clear blue sea that looked more like a swimming pool than an ocean. The sapphire water met a cerulean sky at the horizon, almost making it hard to distinguish one from the other. A welcoming sun set high and bright in the heavens on this Sunday afternoon.
The temperature was a very comfortable 80 degrees, no humidity, and a perfect refreshing breeze was blowing across the beach. I melted into my chair sipping on a cool, refreshing drink as I scanned the water and the beach for my lovely wife.
It was our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. I had booked a cruise to the eastern Caribbean to make up for the fact that twenty-five years ago I left the honeymoon out of our wedding plans. We were so excited simply to be married that we came straight home after the wedding, set up house, and jumped right into the game of life. What an unsuspecting and adventurous game it had been.
I finally spotted her walking towards me on the beach carrying a plate of food stacked high with juicy, colorful sustenance. “Here you go.” She said with a smile, laying the feast on my outstretched lap. It was a beautiful plate full of fresh tropical fruits and vegetables that looked like they had been hand picked off the island, cut into edible portions, and arranged to tempt the eye as well as the mouth.
She turned into the blinding reflection of the sun and headed back towards the water, leaving me to enjoy my shade, my food and my moment.
I sipped my drink, bit into a fresh piece of pineapple and took in her sun enveloped silhouette as she walked away, greatly admiring her beauty, grace, and tenacious love for one of the most undeserving men on the planet.
“This is as good as it gets!” I said out loud as I raised my glass to toast the Creator. “A true masterpiece! Thank you!”
Paradise restored! My spot on the new earth—no visible sin, no stress, no disability, no pain, sorrow or depression.
This…is as good as it gets!
And that’s when it happened. Just then–no sooner than my mind had found its heaven on earth–my heart interrupted, questioning my source of satisfaction, “This is as good as it gets?”
This is it?
The lulling of my relaxation was overpowered by the cutting edge of reality. Sin is not gone; it is merely camouflaged. The stressors are still waiting in the shadows back home. The crimes continue. Hunger abounds. Disease and death run rampant across humanity. The snow falls and the temperature drops, just a few hundred miles true north. My body continues to disintegrate with age while the threat of cancer likely lurks under one or more melanomas forming on my skin under this tropical sun.
And my son is still severely disabled. Don’t you remember his foot breaking only days ago, his glasses needing replaced, his teeth in strong demand of dental attention and still another milestone approaching of his 21st birthday which makes him ineligible for our medical insurance? This is no paradise—only a mirage of Eden, a $500 suite on a leprous outcast, a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.
As you might be able to tell, I have a very difficult time relaxing. My heart is at constant battle with contentment—a civil war of the mind, body and spirit that has raged since my early childhood.
The vacation would soon be over, and the plane would touch down on a gray Sunday in the snow. Monday was already here and I didn’t even know it. Reality takes over. Nothing lasts. Paradise lost.
A few weeks later in the company of good friends and trusted brothers, I confessed the dilemma to my pastor. “Why do I have such a difficult time enjoying things? Why is my life so full of discontentment? Why, even on the most beautiful days, do I continually search the shadows for the enemy instead of delighting in the warmth of the sun?”
He glanced across the impromptu campfire where we had congregated for our Friday night Gospel Community and replied with four simple, yet profound, words:
“…Made for another world.”
There was silence around the fire as we all nodded in agreement like a war party of Native Americans listening to the wisdom of their chief in a tribal meeting.
I know my pastor and friend well enough to realize what his concise answer really means.
It means that when hard times come through the unbearable difficulties of life, we tend to develop a mechanism for dealing with the difficulties. We often focus for a moment on something desirable, perhaps a season of delight, or a minute of pleasure to get our eyes off the moment–a vacation or a trip somewhere far away from the struggles. We are all working for the weekend at some point in our lives.
And no matter how grand these things might seem at the moment, we realize we are only being tempted with the temporary. Nothing fully meets our desire. Nothing fully satisfies. Nothing lasts.
But that temporary gift is pointing us to the eternal prize. “When the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.”
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:10,12)
So to all those who trust Christ and still struggle with finding real joy in this world—to those who live in the dark reality of discontentment, you are not strange, but you are a stranger. And no matter how lonely it may seem, you are not alone.
Keep on going. Keep on keeping-on, in faith and hope and trust.
Look for pleasures in the reflection of the temporary, but understand your true joy lies in the One whose presence offers the fullness of joy. And His right hand is extended for you, pleasures forever more (Psalm 16:11).
Trudge down the road less traveled with men like Abraham, who “went out, not knowing where he was going to live in the land of promise.”
Not because he was a blind faith follower of a nameless dream, but because he knew that even the land promised was pointing him towards a more Promised Land.
“For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:8, 10)
And realize that your dissatisfaction is not pointing you away from the good. Instead it is pointing you to what you were made for in the first place—the best.
“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water…If I find in myself a desire, which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” – C.S. Lewis