Why Aren't You Happy?
Your quality of life expands or contracts in proportion to the number of hard questions you’re willing to ask yourself, and your answers to those questions. Nowadays, I’m intrigued by questions found in the Bible. Whether you believe Jesus is the Son of God or not, he is widely regarded as the greatest teacher who ever lived. Like all great teachers, Jesus asked a lot of questions.
But before I ever seriously considered any questions posed by Jesus in the Bible, I had to deal with one he placed in my heart. At the time I didn’t know it was Jesus speaking to me. It was just a voice in my head and a question that made me stop and think.
I was a hotshot rookie lawyer at a prestigious law firm. I was assigned to an international case that made world news. I couldn’t believe my luck in being assigned to this high-profile case. God was certainly smiling at me, but not in the way that I thought.
I was flying home from a meeting with our client. As I gazed through the airplane window, a series of thoughts surprised and then unsettled me. The sequence was something like: “Well, you’ve done it! You’ve landed a fancy, well-paying job. You’re on the top case in the office. You’ve got a house in the suburbs and a beautiful family. You’re in great health and you’re in the prime of your youth. Your dream has arrived ahead of schedule.”
I remember further thinking, “You could not have planned this any better.” Then came the loaded question that I wasn’t prepared for … “So why aren’t you happy?” The voice went on, “You have …
A loving family … check;
A nice salary and bonus structure … check;
A beautiful home … check;
Nice clothes, cars, things … check;
Wonderful friends and extended family … check;
Interesting and challenging work … check;
Amazing health … check!
“You’ve got everything you want, Wayne; you should be overjoyed now. Why aren’t you?”
That simple question was a wake-up call for me. It was depressing to acknowledge that I’d arrived at my intended destination, but still had a hole in my heart. I realized at that moment that no amount of career ascent, fame, power, money, or even loving relationships would fill that void. That’s when I began the search for the unseen thing that seemed missing from my life. It’s hard to go looking for something you can’t name, but I began.
I read many self-help gurus and I even consulted a psychic. None of them could tell me anything that made any difference. I concluded that personal fulfillment was an illusion.
Right around that time my son was born six months prematurely. My wife started attending a local church and I followed her out of respect for her faith and concern for my son. What could church hurt? I had gone as a child. I attended a Catholic high school. I had no issues with God. I just had no time for him.
Fortunately, he had time for me. It wasn’t long before I came to discover the origin of that hole I felt in my heart, and why I could never feel fulfilled despite all my earthly success and good fortune. The Bible states it in many ways. One of my favorite ways is this: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart ...” Ecclesiastes 3:11
What this means to me is that God places a God-sized hole in each human heart that only he can fill. Life can become a struggle to fill that hole with things, people, ambition, success, drugs, sex, power ... you name it.
I was certain that if I had the right career, lots of success, a beautiful family, friends, and all the rest, I would be happy. My life would be fulfilled.
The problem is that without a relationship with God, my life was destined to resemble the tragic Greek character Sisyphus. He was condemned to forever push a large boulder up a hill just to watch it roll back down every time he neared the top. Such is life, without God. It’s like trying to fill what cannot be filled; like gorging on all the world has to offer, but still feeling famished.
Think about it. How many famous or successful people, with every seeming advantage, have ruined or even taken their own lives?
The list is as endless as the things we use to quench the unquenchable thirst. Jesus once told a woman at a well, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
I know what that means. Since I took a drink from the well that is Jesus, I've never thirsted again. I've been full, free, and fulfilled ever since.
Have I had bad days? Yes.
Have I had failures? Yes.
Have I dealt with all the other ups, downs, and disappointments that humans face? Yes!
But I've never felt that empty feeling of "what's missing" ever again.
This is my story and I’m sticking to it. But this post isn't about me. It's about you. Why aren't you happy? Have you considered the God-sized hole in your heart that no career, business, success, or human relationship will ever fill?
Have you arrived at the top of the mountain to find there’s nothing up there? Or are you just strangely blue; longing for something you can't quite name...
Perhaps you're in search of eternity. Take it from me. Only God can close that loop.