“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory that beyond all comparison as we look not to the things that are seen, but the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Co 4:14-16
To live in reality is to live in a perpetual state of disappointment. And the more that truth is revealed, the greater the accompanying heartache (Ecc 1:18). That is unless one becomes highly skilled in the art of self deception, mental and emotional preoccupation, and/or disillusionment. Because everything this world has to offer is a scam. This world is horrendous to us—it promises happiness, fulfillment, and satisfaction but delivers emptiness, brokenness, and hardship. It gives us a glimpse of something wonderfully appealing, then instantly begins a gradual stripping of all it’s sustenance leaving us hopelessly discouraged until we recover enough to once again trust in another seductive facade of lies.
I purport that one of the most difficult elements of coping with life is the mismatched expectations of human beings. We assume that life should go the way we want it–that relationships will serve our emotional needs,that our employers will meet our financial needs, that the government will look out for our best interest, and that if we just make the right decisions our physical bodies will look and function optimally. We are bombarded with subtle messages insinuating these distortions through advertisements, film, and social media. From childhood, most of the stories we feed to our children imply a possibility for every boy to become a strong valiant warrior-hero and every girl a beautifully figured flawless woman who falls in love with the man of her dreams who would fulfill her every need. And every child who has ever dreamt of and longed for such wonders has known the crushing reality of a trampled heart, and accuracy of our ugliness, weakness, and infirmity.
And yet somehow, we continue to hold out hope for something better in life. We abandon the storybook idealism and strive for recognition, fame, and applause—if only we could write a great song, win a gold medal, hold a high position—then maybe we might be worth something and our lives might count for something. And those who don’t end up deluded or suicidal suppose that if we can at least settle for a decent job, good sex, and a nice home, the daunting gap between our desire for fulfillment will be lessened to bearable. And I suspect most people living with any happiness in this life simply modify their standards in such a way in the name of “maturity” as they put off childlike fantasies of a world absent of pain and sorrow and filled with infinite joy. It is one of the greatest deceptions of the prince of this world (John 14:30). He labors not to convince us that such a place doesn’t exist—for that would be impossible as it is rooted in our very souls (Ecc 3:11), not to show us how undeserving we are of it (Ro 3:12)—which would be simple truth that might point us toward a savior, nor to make it appear more extravagant than it truly is—for that just might generate an unstoppable enticement and hunger to seek truth (Acts 17:27). But rather he subtly belittles it, makes it appear silly and surreal. He minimizes it through one disappointment after another and in doing so shatters the sweet hope our maker has worked so diligently to cultivate in the human soul.
We live in a paradoxical state of perpetual disappointment and resolved contentment. It’s no wonder that anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications are among the top prescribed. It’s no wonder humans are the only creatures who consider self-mutilation and suicide. It’s no wonder we numb ourselves with business and mindlessness. We are fighting against our very nature and it is an ugly battle. Apart from a gospel paradigm, we are left in a helpless state of despair, expecting both too little and too much at the same time. We expect too much of this world and not enough of the one to come. We expect too much of the here and now and not enough of eternity. We expect too much of ourselves and not enough of Christ. We live in an inverted kingdom and only through the lens of Christ can we see the clarity of the beautiful mess we’ve sown and of which he is in the sovereign business of repairing.
“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered you, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.” -C.S. Lewis