Joy Comes in Service, Misery Through Self Absorption

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Matthew 6:19-20

Summer is coming upon us, and I’m starting to make plans. In years past I’ve always fallen into a trap. It’s a very worldly mindset that has come upon me this time of year for the past 3 years. It’s the thought that summer is coming, and I’ve got to get the most out of it for me as possible. I’ve got to enjoy it to its fullest and soak in every bit of pleasure that summer has to offer.

This is a very self-absorbed, worldly way of looking at life. It goes along with the quote, “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.” It is this idea that we need to get the most pleasure out of life as we possibly can before we die as though this life is all there is, but the truth is that this life is not all there is. We are here for a second, and then we live for eternity in a place with no more sorrows, tears or sufferings.

To make the most of our time here, we should be pouring ourselves out into the lives of others and living for God’s kingdom. That is very different from seeking to get everything for ourselves out of life. It is pouring ourselves out to others versus seeking to be poured into. It is seeking to serve rather than to be served.

The funny thing is that the one who seeks to live for pleasure and happiness never finds it. Instead, they are given greater depression and anxiety. Our plans will always be frustrated when we’re living for pleasure. When something doesn’t go our way, and we are not enjoying life and getting pleasure from it, we’re going to get upset and irritated because when living according to this mindset, that is what is important. What’s most important is me. Me and my pleasure.

This mindset is a sickness, and it leads to a deep seated spiritual unrest. It’s not satisfying. It’s such an awful, depressing, anxiety filled place to be in, and I know this because I’ve lived it, and I hope by God’s help, that he’ll keep me from falling back into this state of mind. That’s one reason why I’m writing this now. As a reminder to myself, as well as others, of the dangers and errors of this mindset.

What really gives us joy in life, is serving others, and laying our lives down for others. The real, deep, soul satisfying joy that we really desire comes in and through that. We don’t get joy by living for ourselves and trying to gain a massive amount of pleasure for ourselves. That brings us more sadness than anything else and riddles us with anxiety.

In years past, I have planned out my summers making sure that I gave myself enough “me time” to indulge in whatever pleasures I wanted. I wanted to make sure that I fit everything in that summer that I needed for myself. If any interruptions from my wife came or someone needed help from me while I was trying to satisfy myself, I would get upset. I was always unsatisfied and my plans were always frustrated.

This self-absorbed lifestyle with the sole purpose of gratifying myself and the flesh brought deep depression and inner death and pain within my soul, and on top of that an enormous amount of guilt and anxiety weighed heavy on me. I never was able to taste the true life of fulfillment and never could reach it, and I wasn’t meant to reach it while living for myself. God didn’t design us that way.

He designed us to find our greatest joy in laying our lives down for others. He designed us to find joy in disadvantaging ourselves in order to advantage others. We’re meant to let go of pleasure and find joy in productivity. We never find joy in sloth and unproductivity. We’re meant to be active doing things. During a season of rest even, that rest is meant to be “productive rest.”

So what is “productive rest”? What should we be seeking to do this summer? Well, I think it’s different for everyone. Mainly it’s to continue serving God and others as always. Seeking to be a servant rather than to be served. This means that you continue serving others in your life and finding ways to serve and pour your life out for others and live for God’s kingdom. This will look different for each and everyone one of us.

Now this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go on a vacation over the summer or do fun things. It just means that while on vacation, you’re not going to find joy in living as a sloth. You’re meant to be having productive rest. This may mean going on walks with your wife. This may mean reading a book that has been on your reading list. It may mean working on writing that book you’ve always wanted to write but haven’t had the time to work on. It could mean working on that carpentry project you’ve been wanting to work on for a while. Depending on your unique interests and circumstances in life it will be different for us all.

What I also want to express is that you’re not going to get joy from trying to get joy and pleasure out of life. If you’re lying on the beach drinking a beer, trying to experience peace and joy in your heart, it will elude you. You’re meant to just live for God, seeking to live for his kingdom always, and let his peace and joy come into your heart in his timing and according to his will—not your own. We’re never meant to try to create that peace, joy and pleasure in our hearts. We’re meant to just let God decide when and if we experience that.

We’re meant to completely let go of trying to get the most pleasure out of summer as possible, and we’re meant to let suffering and pain and sadness come if it be the Lord’s will. And we’re meant to be actively living for his kingdom no matter what time of the year it is. The summer may be a season of joy or it may be a time of pain and sadness. That is in the Lord’s hands, and we’re meant to receive from him whatever he gives us this summer and continue  serving others and living our lives for Him and His kingdom as always.

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