Often we hear about people who find little joy in life. Reality is just being! Some would argue that many people live in a spiritual vacuum. Millions barely experience any purpose for living beyond fulfilling the particular pleasure of the moment. Every once in a while when you meet someone like this, you can almost feel the lack of meaningful challenge in the person’s life.
Some of us seemingly watch life go by without much ado. We may move through the motions of life, but truly we are lifeless. We may even claim to live simply for ourselves, but indeed long for something more than nothing. It may come as a surprise to some, though, most likely only a few, that we, the so-called faithful, constitute a large piece of this pie chart. The substance of life feels elusive. People search for something substantive. Unless good times thrive, we appear to shrivel in despair. Visions waste away. Hope withers.
I once read a quip that suggested many of us today live like cotton candy. That’s right! We tend to live the life of cotton candy. Remember the last time you may have gone to the fair? As soon as you hit the gate you begin to catch a whiff of all those wonderful snacks and treats that only a state fair can make you desire. The sweetness of the cotton candy in the air lures you around the corners, searching for the source of your desire.
When you stumble upon it, the sight of it begins to make your mouth water. Its colors, its huge fluffy swirl only make you gaze upon it in anticipation. Time seems to stall for the longest, wonderful nanosecond until you pull off the first bite, with lips and gums wrapping themselves around the cottony clump. Then, just as suddenly as your pleasure comes, it goes. Before you can set your teeth in chewing motion - the clump collapses. It dissolves! It lacks substance. You consume another piece, trying to latch on to what surely must be there. You see it! You smell it! And you taste it for a moment! Still again, it dissolves.
We do live like cotton candy. We go to great lengths to look good. Every culture creates stereotypes of beauty. Grooming standards prevail. What we wear must appeal to the eye. We even know how to sound good. Saying the right thing becomes the priority, even if it takes a “fib” to do it. We do indeed live like cotton candy.
A great deal of how we live actually falls under the domain of privacy. We defend our choices under the right to choose. We are quick to judge one another. We judge our standards against one another. We measure our content on our increasing rate of pleasure and prosperity. The subsistence of our lives becomes how we look, how we’re esteemed. Prosperity is mistaken for substance.
The lamenting prophet, Jeremiah cries out to us, “The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse – who can understand it?”(Jer. 17:9) I can only imagine to what extent the prophet perceives that we may deceive ourselves. “Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength” (Jer. 17:5). Jeremiah does not curse prosperity. He curses the heart that feeds upon it.
The Lord does detect the odor of cotton candy! God does recognize its appearance. God does “test the mind, and search the heart” (Jer. 17:10). Life builds substance when rooted in the source of life, “like a tree planted by the water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, in the year of drought is not anxious” (Psalm 1:8).
Roots that grow deep, the heart that clings to the source of life develops a trust that sustains one in the barren seasons – like the berries on a holly tree in winter, like a cactus that flowers in the desert summer, the substance of life is sustained, even flourishes, by roots that defy the season. Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord!
God in All Seasons, Rick