Scott Saul’s little book, Jesus Outside the Lines, has captured my imagination. Scott Saul is a Presbyterian Pastor in Nashville. Towards the end of the book Saul describes the inner struggle people have when it comes to obedience, a struggle that is often rooted in failure to obtain personal fulfillment and satisfaction. Our western culture tells us that we deserve to get all that that life can give. We deserve to be happy, fulfilled, and satisfied. It’s as if life owes us the best it offers. And if what makes us happy and fulfilled isn’t obtained, or achieved the way we want, then we think something’s wrong.
This mindset is tied to the radical individualism of the west. Other cultures don’t feel same. The will of the group, or family, is more important than the individual’s wants or needs. But to us in the west, we want it all, and often live in such a way to get it, even if getting it crosses God’s moral or ethical lines. So for example, if we don’t have enough money, we’ll cheat to get more. If we don’t get the love we want, we’ll have an affair. If you read the tabloids, that seems to be the American way.
Of course life rarely delivers all the goods. Dreams are shattered. Hopes go unfulfilled. Goals aren’t achieved. We don’t get into the school we want. We don’t get the job or the type of spouse we hoped for. We don’t have the money or material possessions or success we desire. Failure to obtain these things can easily discourage us and make us wonder if God cares. Worse yet, it may tempt us to obtain those things ways contradictory to what God wants—our holiness!
What’s the remedy? Back to Scott Saul’s little book. Towards the end he tells the story of a Puritan who’d been stripped of everything but a piece of bread and a glass of water. In 17th century England, that kind of punishment was normal for religious outsiders like the Puritans. The Puritan’s response is classic, “What? All this and Jesus, too?” Do you see what he was saying?
What will make us truly happy? It’s not getting what we want. It’s getting what we were created to have, and what we really need—God himself. “Whom have I in heaven but you?!! And earth has nothing I desire besides you,” cries the Psalmist (Ps 73:25). Regardless of life’s circumstances, the long term worst case scenario for the believer is that we’ll inherit a wealth that will never spoil, perish or fade. That wealth is Jesus. So regardless of the twists and turns we experience in life, anchor your happiness and your satisfaction in his provision for you through his life, death and resurrection on your behalf. Your happiness, over the long haul, is rooted solely in him. Everything else will fade away. Think about it.