Are you feeling temporarily unsatisfied or unfulfilled, even though everything in your life is going well? Do you see other people in your life living freely, while you are a prisoner to your own deep thoughts and mental fog.
This is an occasional struggle for me, especially over the summer, which is weird because I am actually a very positive and hopeful person. God has blessed me richly, so why the heavy heart?
Part of the reason is that I have pushed pause on my professional career for a bit, exchanging teaching for a mixture of reflection regarding the previous school year and anticipation of the coming school year. My daily schedule also shifts dramatically, resulting in more down time. When I have down time, my default mode is to examine life deeply (hence the title of my blog). Doing this brings me a ton of joy, but it can also wear me out. Often times I get so stuck in my mind that I have a hard time functioning in day to day life. Checking out of life for a month to leisurely muse is not an option for a husband and father, so I must find balance
The bigger reason is that I do a horrible job of prioritizing my time, and this is just magnified with the lax schedule of summer for a teacher. I come up with a list of things I want to accomplish in June and July that I have been putting off while school was in session, and link my fulfillment with the successful completion of these goals. This is not what I am supposed to be seeking first.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” – Matthew 6:33 (KJV)
Seek Ye First…
I’ve heard it. I’ve read it. I’ve said it.
But do I actually do it?
The answer is “no” most of the time. I want to seek God first every day and throughout the day, but my own desires and ambitions quickly take precedence in my thoughts. Often times I never even seek him at all.
On most mornings during the summer, I wake up early, make my French-pressed and freshly ground coffee, take a piping hot sip, and sit down at the dining room table. Out comes my journal and the Bible. I read a chapter in the good book, and then I attempt to pray, but end up spacing out and thinking about plans for the day.
Why the obsession with seeking God first anyway?
We humans are created and hard wired to seek and worship. God intended for us to seek him and worship him, and this is the only way to achieve consistent and deep satisfaction in life. If we do not seek him first and worship him, we will most certainly seek something else and elevate it in our lives.
When talking about how humanity reacted to this reality, Paul said the following.
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” – Romans 1:21-25 (NIV)
This is true with my heart at times too. I do not doubt God’s power, nor do I deny that Jesus is my lord and savior. I admit that I am a sinner in need of a savior. As the song goes, “It is well with my soul.” What I struggle with is satisfaction and fulfillment, mainly during the summer months while I have more time on my hands. What I have noticed is that I encounter much more melancholy during this time than when I am busy teaching. This is not depression, but instead a mental fogginess that prevents a full enjoyment of life. Why?
With more free time, I have more chances to choose the creation instead of the Creator. One of God’s many manifestations of kindness and grace is that he allows us to obtain a measure of satisfaction and fulfillment from the things he has created.
When I win an award at work, I am excited and honored. When my sons make a wise choice in place of a selfish one, I am proud. When I finish a workout, I get a buzz and feel a very real level of satisfaction. When I finish painting a room in my home, I feel accomplished. When I sip good whiskey and listen to good music while hanging out with loved ones, I feel happy. When I curl up with my wife on the couch and laugh while watching Parks and Rec, I feel content. When I write, I feel purposeful. When we fall in love, we feel elated. When we savor delicious food, it tastes awesome.
None of these experiences are bad. None of them anger God. It only becomes a problem if we chose God’s things over God himself. He designed us to reach our utmost satisfaction and fulfillment by seeking him and pursuing his righteousness. When we try to substitute God with anything else, it leads to a letdown. I cannot speak for everyone. What I do know is that this is so true for me, and it is backed up by God’s own Word.
Some days, when everything lines up in a seemingly perfect way, I still feel heavy hearted. It feels like something is missing. Do you ever experience this? Every time I do, it never fails that I did not seek God first that day or for several days prior. After trying to remedy my despondence with workouts, funny videos, family time, meditation, and reading, I finally recognize that quality time with God is the solution.
My next move is to dedicate the very first moments of my morning to studying the Bible and praying. Before praying, I write all of things causing me stress, anxiety, nervousness, worry, or fear down in a brain dump. I then take these burdens to God. To prevent my wandering mind from getting distracted, I write out my prayers in a journal. This helps me so much because it keeps my squirrel brain on task and makes my prayers seem more like the conversations with God that they are supposed to be. Every time without exception, this clears my mind, lightens my heart, and brightens my mood.
When we seek the Creator first and we seek his creation second, our souls function as they are intended to function. When we get this flipped, our entire being gets out of whack. It is a very simple principle, yet I continually forget and relapse back into a state of weirdness and mental funk.
Are you feeling unsatisfied or unfulfilled, even though everything in your life is going well? Try seeking God first thing in the morning, dedicate your day to him, and see if the heavy heart gets relieved of its melancholy. If you do not know Christ at all, I encourage you to pursue him and seek him. This has made all the difference for me.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:28-29 (NIV)