I don’t really know what “living your best life” means. First of all, how do we know what our “best life” is? We can’t possibly know, surely. We haven’t lived it all yet. Does it mean “living to what I feel is my fulfilled potential”? Or does it mean “living joyfully and freely and with nothing to worry about”. Possibly. So surely what we really mean is, “living the life I dream of”.
What sits behind this is the feeling of satisfaction. Feeling satisfied means feeling complete, peaceful and contented. To feel completely satisfied means to feel happiness. Now, we often think that these feelings are states of being – that happiness or satisfaction is a constant state of experience. This is just not the case, nor can it be.
This struck me the other day when I returned home from dinner with A Mate. I’d had a great day. I did some writing I was really proud of, I didn’t have to be in the office for my day job for another couple of days, and I really like my job so that wasn’t even a big deal. I felt really close to God and had some great devotional time. Then I saw My Mate and we’d had a super lovely evening. We’d laughed and connected. It was still early so we got to have our own time before bed (top consideration when you get to my age). It was a really perfect night.
Then I got home and my new dog had poo’d in her crate and then done that doggy digging motion and sprayed the plops through the bars and all over the living room. As I wiped and mopped I cogitated on the dignity of my life and the fact that “your best life” will always probably have some dog poo on it.
This may sound flippant but it’s worth thinking about because contentment and satisfaction underpin how we approach life – or rather, how we let life approach us.
You see, if we think there is a “best life” we will constantly feel dis-satisfied. Or at least only satisfied in the fleeting moments in which we feel replete – during a relaxing holiday when the cares of the world seem far away, in a new relationship that is thrilling and romantic, when we self-medicate with our favourite pleasure to take our attention away from the fact that we feel horribly mediocre.
If we aren’t careful then, we will live for transitory moments that we wish would last forever, and bemoan our woefully inadequate lives which never match up to what we think our “best life” should be (or what it looks like in the movies).
Now it’s an easy thing to say we should feel satisfied in Christ, as though it’s the answer to all our problems. It would certainly be true, but not necessarily too helpful at this point.
So what to do?
Well, first of all, it’s OK to want a “best life”, to feel satisfied and replete. It’s even OK to want holidays and nice times and money and a better job.
What’s less OK is to let it take over. If always wanting the next best thing is all you think about, if you live for your next holiday, if you are constantly dissatisfied, that’s something to consider carefully. There may be some things in there to repent of. There may be some pride or covetousness.
Here’s something else to consider. Our dissatisfaction itself can be sinful because what we’re saying is that we are not content with where God has placed us and what he has given us. That’s a harsh truth.
The antidote to this is gratitude. What has he given us? We must practice our powers of observation and thankfulness.
If we are in a situation that is making us unhappy, one of two things needs to occur – we need to change our situation, or change our attitude. In either case, the object of the change needs to not be us, but Christ. Is this holiday so I can focus on a fleeting “best life” moment? Or so I can take time with my family, who are my first ministry? Am I looking for a new job because I want power and prestige? Or because a higher salary would allow me to give more to my church, or allow my family members to volunteer more, or have a greater platform to witness to others? Remember, Proverbs 16:2 says “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs motives.” Our motivations, our choices, are the proof of where our heart is.
Some of us are in a situation that is extremely difficult to feel content in. Some of us suffer in sickness. Some are burdened. Some are heavy of spirit. Some are strangled in poverty. Some are put upon by others, pressured and oppressed. For some, a “best life” seems like an impossible dream.
For those people, know that nobody is living their best life. Even on their best days there is dog poo to clean up.
Take a look also, for encouragement, at my blog on finding peace (you can read it here). This gives us hope and certainty that there will be a best day. There will be an unending best life, with him.
Until then, we must strive to be satisfied – but satisfied in the right thing and for the right reasons. We must rise above our circumstances knowing there is something greater, just as Paul did when in prison:
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12)
Paul achieved this the way we can achieve it. By taking his strength from Christ. But just because Paul said it, doesn’t mean it was easy for him. He was human just like us. He had a shady past and he was kind of a jerk sometimes. But he learned what he needed to learn through his faith in Christ alone. Paul was living his best life, even in poverty and persecution and personal attack and imprisonments. Because he persevered in his faith and growth and obedience.
We too must constantly seek to grow and to guard our hearts, even among the difficulties and the dog poo.