People feel like life is a dead end and you wouldn’t even know it. They appear to be moving towards peace, love and joy, but the awful truth is they are great at disguising their stalemate. The postmodern world necessities it. There isn’t time to talk about what troubles them, nor many ears to hear. And those who could hear are too distracted or overwhelmed, or when they finally do have time, they haven’t an answer. Or, perhaps, they have a solution but it isn’t congruent or desired. And so, people feel like life is a dead end.
Growing up, I knew of a dead end. A paved street amidst rows of houses, some two story and old as the Great War with flush green yards and chain fences. The street came to an abrupt end. That’s it. If you’re driving, turn around or sit there and stare at the concrete curb or the white barrier or the clump of trees overshadowing the dead end street. There isn’t many options in a vehicle, but on foot you’ve got a host of possibilities. For beyond the curb and barrier lay a path, into the trees and beyond the dead end. So too is the Christian life. Here are three approaches to life that lead to dead ends and three counter approaches that lead to life and the Author of life.
Ambition moderated will suffice. Yet left on it’s own, and apart from virtue, it becomes a demanding steward of your very life. The overly ambitious constantly complain. They are never content and always critique the works of others. They envy and gossip with jealous zeal. Friendships fail to mature because the primary focus is on the acquisition of a good yet attained. Though once achieved the focus shifts to another mountain to climb. There isn’t time for rest or the view. One must march on. The overly ambitious tire those around them, and finally themselves, successful or not, into a retreat of depressive anger. They are without peace.
“His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7b). The road of ambition is thrilling but requires a lot of energy. It burns people out. Anger wells in disappointment. Everyone has disappointments. Guard yourself with the peace of Christ. Redirect your ambition to be a person of peace. Moderate it with self control and you will walk the path of life with peace in your heart and a mind clear from the weight of failures. You will walk with Jesus and hum, “it is well with my soul.”
Approval moderated will suffice. Gaining the approval of those who discern the difference between good and evil is a boon worth more than a million likes. But those who seek constant approval are desperate for affirmation. They haven’t the resources of inner strength and the knowledge of who they truly are to walk with sure steps. They constantly forget who created them and who gave purpose and order to their steps. Wayward, inconsistent, unreliable, and always in need characterizes their end of the friendship. They take and hastily give but take the wrong things from the wrong people and give to their determent. They are in need of love.
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love” (Jn 15:9). The road of approval is a promise never kept and a burden always felt. It’s mysterious in that it causes people to shrink the further they travel. Less of them is possible. They require affirmation from confidants and then acquaintances and then strangers in person and online. Take the easier path and surrender to the love of Christ. Moderate your need of approval with first hand experience of His love. If you haven’t yet had His love, ask for it. Seek it as you had with approval and lo, the path will open to you and you will walk with Jesus and hum, “Jesus loves me.”
Appetite moderated will suffice. Yet left on its own, and apart from virtue, it will destroy your life. Those overrunning with desires chase pleasure with reckless abandon. They love to pursue and feast heartily on amusements but are never amused. They demand more. They’ve seen it all, usually by the age of sixteen, and slink along with guant souls, starving for meaning and joy. They become jaded, approach friendships with unapologetic shallowness and thus instill life with nihilism. “Paths are just paths to nowhere”, they conclude. Eat and drink merely, for tomorrow we die! They believe this sentiment because they are at a joyless dead end and cannot see the path nor the One who bequeaths joy. They are in need of Him and His great gift.
“You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet 1:8-9). The road of the appetites is fraught with unseen peril. A fog of delight engulfs and sleepily confuses. Just to lay down for a moment turns into an eternity of missed opportunities and regret. All of which is overcome when we venture towards the higher grounds of Christ and take up the glories of His joy. Vision is gained. Gladness beams from the soul. Seek the joy of the Lord and be delightfully amazed as you walk with energy and a bounce in your step amidst the presence of Jesus, humming “I’ve got joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart”.
Because of Christ, life is not a dead end. Realign your ambitions, need for approval and appetites with Him, and you will walk a good path of peace, love and joy.