- David Defries
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Tim. 1:7)
Are you satisfied with your life? Is it fulfilling? Is it what you hoped for?
I've been pondering these questions for myself lately. It seems to me that I'm never completely satisfied with my life or what's going on. Sure, I may really enjoy certain aspects, but there's still usually an undercurrent in me that thinks, "If/When this certain thing happens, then I'll be satisfied." I seem to be constantly looking for something else, something more, and even if I do attain that something more, it's immediately replaced by a longing for something else. It's almost as if I'm trapped in a perpetual cycle of the grass being greener on the other side.
I don't think that I'm the only one who struggles with this. In fact, almost everyone that I meet expresses the same sentiment. There's always something that they hope would change, something that feels out of their control, something that isn't working out how they thought it would.
I've been looking into this and trying to process what the actual problem is. I certainly don't have a complete or whole answer, but I am making progress. I think the main problem has been what I define as success. I feel satisfied with my life when I "succeed". However, my definition of success seems flawed, because I feel like I fail a lot.
You see, I evaluate every aspect of my life on a regular basis. In fact, I think I subconsciously do it, without even having to try. I evaluate how my marriage is, how I'm parenting, how good my friends are (and how good of a friend I am), how well I'm leading my church, how well I'm managing my life, how well I'm exercising, how well I'm accomplishing the tasks I need to do, how well maintained my house is, and so on and so forth. When something breaks down, I feel like I've failed. For instance, if I lose my patience with one of my children because of their behaviour, I look back on it and think that I need to do better… I need to react in that situation with more patience and grace and manage my emotions better. Then I try and put practicality to how to actually accomplish that.
The problem is that I have an ever growing list of things that seem to be "failing", or not going how I envisioned them to go, but I have no idea how to do it better. Therefore, when I think about it, it just feels like I'm inherently flawed and there's nothing that I can do to change it. It's a very powerless feeling.
This feeling of powerlessness is also why I'm pretty sure my concept of success is flawed. I know from what I read in the Bible that I am a powerful person through being changed and redeemed by Jesus Christ. I know that because of accepting Jesus in my life, my nature has been fundamentally altered so that I have the ability to think well, to do good works, to fulfill my life's purpose with ever increasing success and blessing. So if that is the case, then my feeling of failure must be wrong. Feelings lie to us all of the time and are a terrible yardstick for what is true.
I think that measuring success by what I accomplish is a wrong mentality. Rather, my success is found in how I'm living out my identity, how I'm living out the purpose of my life, and how I'm living out my relationship with God and the others around me. It stems more from who I am (who God has made me to be) and who I'm with rather than what I'm doing and what I'm accomplishing. It comes from the love for myself and for others that I'm cultivating rather than the actions that I've taken.
I feel fulfilled when I spend time with my wife and kids and we're enjoying each others company in a loving atmosphere. I feel fulfilled when I worship God and remember what He has done for me and who He says I am. I feel fulfilled when I'm out with a friend and connect with them heart to heart. I feel fulfilled when I see a life impacted and changed by my ministry to them. This is what success is… all the rest seems to be window dressing.
I don't know if any of this even makes sense after I write it down. I usually have trouble identifying my feelings, let alone comprehensively writing them down! However, I think it's important that we grapple with defining what a fulfilled life looks like so that we end up pursuing the right things. Otherwise, we end up wasting a lot of our lives in pursuits that ultimately mean nothing and end up leaving us discontented. I believe that God's desire is for us to live life to the full and He's made a way for us to do just that. Now, I just need to align myself with God's way in order to live it out…
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)