Deficit thinking will always be one of the enemy’s tools, to back us into a corner of discontentment. A skewed view of what excitement is, makes us vulnerable to thinking that we have a dull and boring life or marriage. If convinced of this, we will be motivated to search out ways to bring fascination back into the picture. Not a bad desire on the front end, but potentially a breeding ground for addictions, glimmering with the attraction of a quick departure from the seemingly mundane.
We live in an addictive culture, providing convenient options of escape, fast routes to excitement. Drugs, alcohol, sex, money, entertainment, and the list goes on. People are driven towards both the thrill of adventure, and the eliminating of stress. The payoff though, is a fleeting one. Truth is, we were not designed by God to be constantly in a state of excitement. Nor were we designed to live free of any stress or challenges.
Most couples, in their initial infatuation season, feel like the sensation will never end, and rightly so. Who wants to be sober when you can be intoxicated with the enjoyment of all things becoming new. Quite frankly, courting your future spouse is rivaled only by the One who sought you out to be his bride and the deep fulfillment you experienced when you said “yes.”
Upon surrendering my life to Jesus forty-two years ago, I gained release from my former dungeon of spiritual boredom. Life became interesting, fascinating, inspiring, and appealing ( aka exciting ). Things skyrocketed five years later when I met my wife. There was seemingly no abatement in sight, and yet, the emotions began to wane after a year or two. The mainstay of a strong marriage is in the decision to love, not the exciting feelings of love. The same principle holds true in our relationship with Jesus. There are ebbs and flows to our union.
It’s been twenty-five years since I first read Dr. Archibald Hart’s, “Healing Life’s Hidden Addictions”, but I find the advice still beneficial. Four points are paraphrased below.
Constantly clarify your spiritual values and beliefs about pleasure. “And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.” (Luke 8:14) Pleasure seeking addictions are thorns that choke the Word of God. Or, the time it takes to devote oneself to an addiction, is the very time and energy that I find I don’t have, to allocate towards seeking God.
Accept that a deficit in excitement is a normal part of life. A healthy life has points and counterpoints, hills and valleys. The one is necessary, to see the other. Times of boredom and even sorrow give meaning to our happiness.
Be careful where and how you get your excitement. Our goal is not to avoid pleasure; it’s about where and how we seek it. The obviously wrong sources are clear to see. The more subtle, “not technically sin” sources are harder to detect.
Learn to appreciate “satisfaction” over excitement. Excitement is very limited and will come and go. But there is no limit to the amount of satisfaction that you can garner. It brings pleasure but not always the strong stimulant that comes with brief surges of excitement. Satisfaction is contentment.
Here is a verse that has served as a reliable compass for me: “Godliness…is a source of great gain when accompanied by contentment [that contentment which comes from a sense of inner confidence based on the sufficiency of God].“ ( 1 Timothy 6:6 AMP )
David Grayson, in “Adventures in Friendship”, writes of a man in his community that was given to drink. As he sought to reach out to this man, he made this observation: “When Fate would destroy a man it first separates his forces. It drives him to think one way and act another; it encourages him to seek through outward stimulation – whether drink, riches, or fame – a deceptive and unworthy satisfaction in place of that true contentment which comes only from unity within. No man can be two men successfully.”
Wow, what a contrast! A deceptive satisfaction versus true contentment, stemming from an inner confidence rooted in God.
Pursuing the pleasure of contentment is the most exciting endeavor I know.