Matt Coker | @BackRowOnline
Have you ever sat around the table on Thanksgiving, where everybody is going around giving a small list of things they are thankful for, and then it gets to your turn and you rattle off some generic stuff -- friends, family, pumpkin pie -- and then allow the next person to speak, all the while thinking to yourself that you really don't feel thankful? You don't feel happy? You aren't satisfied with the way life is? And as you listen to everyone else gush about the things that they are thankful for, do you start to feel like you're the only one who is unsatisfied?
Every day, a countless number of people on this earth make a decision based on the fact that they are unsatisfied. Some might seem productive.
"I'm going to start going to the gym because I'm sick of being fat."
"I'm going to go back to college and finish my degree, so I can get a better job."
"I'm going to make myself go to this singles event, because I need to meet someone! I'm tired of being alone."
I'm going to let you in on a secret:
NOBODY IS SATISFIED.
Not really. And it's only a secret because everyone wants to hide it.
How do I know nobody is satisfied? Because there is always something to complain about. There is always someone who has it better than us. There is always something about ourselves we want to change.
Let's take a look at the smash hit reality show "The Biggest Loser." Did you know that after losing all that weight, in most cases HUNDREDS of pounds, and working so hard to achieve it, nearly everybody who leaves that show gains the weight back?
Why is that? Because people don't get fat because they love food. They get fat because they are chasing satisfaction -- and if we eat until we are full or stuff ourselves with guilty pleasure foods, for a few minutes afterward, we'll feel that satisfaction. That is, until the guilt kicks in or another problem arises.
Why do people cheat on their spouses? Because they aren't satisfied with their marriage. They find someone else who excites them and decides the risk of getting caught is worth the reward of getting that satisfaction they've been chasing their whole lives.
Why do people complain about their jobs? Because they aren't satisfied with where they are. They think they would be so much happier in a better position or at a better company with better pay. More money, less hours, the sure-fire path to satisfaction. Maybe I can win the lottery!
And of course, nobody has ever found true happiness at the bottom of a bag of chips, in the arms of a new lover, or even in the Powerball Jackpot.
They give in to the "If only's" in their life, playing "3 wishes" in their minds, knowing that if only this one thing could change, they'd be happy. And even when they get what they want, happiness still eludes them.
And unfortunately, our chase for satisfaction makes us more and more reckless over time. The overeater risks their health. The adulterer risks his marriage. The gambler risks tremendous debt.
Why? Because we don't understand what satisfaction is and isn't.
Here's the second secret:
SATISFACTION IS NOT PERMANENT.
You may be thinking, "But, I am satisfied sometimes!"
Of course you are! I've had a steak dinner before that hit me just right. Perfectly cooked, perfect char, hot and salty French fries, perfectly sweetened iced tea, fresh and crisp salad, and warm, buttery rolls. I didn't overeat, but I didn't leave hungry either. For several minutes, maybe even an hour, the satisfaction I got from that perfect meal allowed me to be happy and nothing else mattered.
But it is fleeting.
And I'm not just talking food here.
There are a few people who have lost tons of weight and kept it off. They look like they've always dreamed or better, and while that might make them happy, there is always something else in life for them to be upset about. Suddenly, they have one less reason to be unsatisfied, yet they still are.
People get jobs that they love all the time, accomplish goals they've always wanted to, win some great prize or championship game, meet a hero of theirs, on and on.
But all of that satisfaction fades. There is nothing in the world that satisfies forever. Even things that are permanent, they will become commonplace, a part of the past, and satisfaction will again elude us.
We, as humans, are destined to be unhappy with the way things are! There is ALWAYS something that could be better. We're always fighting with something or someone. We're always reaching for a brass ring, and even if we grab it, we always spot a bigger, shinier brass ring just out of reach.
Adam and Eve lived in a garden of perfection, sustained by God himself, and yet they still desired more!
So, if nobody is satisfied and satisfaction isn't permanent, then what can we do to change that?
That's the third secret:
LASTING SATISFACTION IS ONLY FOUND IN JESUS.
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14 ESV
I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us. Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. Habakkuk 3:16-18 ESV
The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord! May your hearts live forever! Psalm 22:26 ESV
For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. Psalm 107:9 ESV
There is only one kind of satisfaction that will never fade as long as we seek it, and that is satisfaction in our faith. Jesus is an eternal wellspring of satisfaction, but we have to come to it. We have to drink deep. We have to place that desire above all others.
Part of that is realizing that we will never find satisfaction in earthly things -- and then we have to stop chasing them. Which is easier said than done. I still find myself running to food. It's become almost an instinct in me, and I'm desperately fighting to hand it over fully to God.
There are times my marriage is harder than I want it to be. There are times when being a parent still terrifies me. There are times when I think that life could be so much better than it is. And it's not wrong to try to improve things in your life! But we're not meant to do it on our own.
When I choose to dwell on the fact that God has brought me out of my old life and given me a new one, I find satisfaction. When I look at my life through the eyes of my Savior, I realize the blessings that I have and can truly be thankful for them. When I put God first, no matter how down I'm feeling, life doesn't seem so bad.
If you desire satisfaction, run to your Father first. Because "the fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied" (Proverbs 19:23a ESV).
Stop chasing a perfect life. Let God show you what you have to be thankful for and then work to be grateful for what you've been given. Practice gratitude, even when you feel unsatisfied, because it will soon become a habit -- a part of you.
Maybe next Thanksgiving, you'll realize you have a lot more things to add to your list.
Matt Coker is the Ministry Director of The Back Row. He is married to a beautiful woman he met when they were both in youth group and they have one mischievous son together. Matt collects Funko Pop figures, loves time travel movies, and enjoys exotic jerky meats. You can contact Matt via the contact page or on Twitter at @BackRowOnline.