“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
WHEN WE SEEK OUR ULTIMATE MEANING AND FULFILLMENT IN GOD, THE RESULT IS NOT LESS ENJOYMENT BUT MORE. It is ironic but true: we get the most this life has to offer when we pay primary attention to something else. Temporal things are best enjoyed serendipitously. They surprise us with the greatest delight at those times when we’re busy looking for something else (or more properly Someone else). So by demanding less of this life, we get more than if we made it our all in all.
The good things of God’s creation are meant for our enjoyment. Solomon said, “Here is what I have seen: it is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage” (Ecclesiastes 5:18). Within the limits of their rightful use, temporal things are deeply gratifying. A problem arises, however, when we make earthly enjoyments our main pursuit. Not only will we lose our souls for having worshiped the creation rather than the Creator, but we will have lost the true joy that comes from the creation itself.
A similar principle governs our interaction with other people. Our need for personal relationship is very deep, but we were never meant to find the ultimate fulfillment of that need in our fellow human beings. Only God can perfectly fill our hearts with love. And if we look to those around us to do what God alone can do, not only will we corrupt our relationship with God, but we will damage our human relationships with unfair expectations.
There is a sense in which we are too conservative about earthly pleasures and human relationships. Like the tight-fisted investor obsessed with protecting his principal, we lose much in the long run by our refusal to put the lesser at risk in order to gain the greater. Not only that, but like Scrooge, we also miss out on the enjoyment of the very wealth we’ve attached so much importance to. There is nothing in this world that we won’t enjoy more if we learn to let go of it. Less idolatry means more joy.
“Aim at heaven and you get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither” (C. S. Lewis).