A couple years ago, we went to an amusement park called Silver Dollar City and gave our kids money they could spend however they wanted. But when it was gone, it was gone. In the park, we stopped at a woodworking shop that had a rifle for sale. My son wanted it right away, but it was expensive. He asked if he should get it. I told him if he’d get a lot of enjoyment out of it, it might be worth the cost. He spent most of his money on that purchase, but it turned out to fall short of expectations. Within minutes, he was bored of it and it got very little play. Now, it’s sitting in a bin in our garage, collecting dust.
We’ve all made purchases like that. We trusted we were getting something amazing only to be disappointed. The consequences of purchases that fall short of expectations typically aren’t too bad. However, when we invest our time, energy, and beliefs in things we think will bring us life but fall short of expectations, it can leave us feeling empty. Here are 5 things people trust in that always fall short.
1. The American Dream
A lot of us grow up thinking a house in a nice neighborhood, a wife, 2.5 kids, and a pet will make life perfect. These are all good things, but once you have them, you realize they’re responsibilities. They require sacrifice and work. It’s all worth it, in my opinion, and when we sacrifice for them, we can grow into better versions of ourselves. But when people achieve the American Dream, they expect to finally have “the good life,” but they find it falls incredibly short.
2. Their Own Goodness
“I would never do XYZ!” Have you ever said that to yourself? I used to say it, trusting in my own goodness to save me from temptations. But when I was a junior in high school, my grades were dropping, and out of desperation, I cheated on a test. That may seem like a small concession in the grand scheme, but it was something I thought I would never do. It showed me that, depending on my circumstances, I’m capable of anything. And so are you. Our perceived goodness isn’t powerful enough to stop it.Pursuing momentary highs leaves us morally and spiritually bankrupt.
3. Sex or Drugs
Sex in the context of marriage, when the desire is connection and serving one another, is beautiful and fulfilling. It can add a deeper level of intimacy to a marriage. But when we’re motivated solely by how it makes us feel, it becomes a selfish pursuit. Porn and drugs do the same thing. It’s a temporary high that makes us crave more and more. Pursuing momentary highs leaves us morally and spiritually bankrupt. We become unsatisfied, self-indulgent, superficial, and boring.
Being able to pay our bills definitely lowers our stress, but anything beyond never gives us the lasting contentment we think it will. Acquiring wealth and things gives us a momentary thrill, but they lose their excitement. Then we have to get wealthier and buy more things, and the cycle continues.
When we trust in our achievements to give us a full life, then our whole value is wrapped up in our last success or failure. It’s a never-ending cycle of only being as good as our last achievement. In a 60 Minutes interview after Tom Brady won his third Super Bowl, he said, “There’s got to be more than this.” The highest achievements and status aren’t enough to fill us.
So, what can we trust in?
About 2000 ago, Jesus rested by a well and had a conversation with a Samaritan woman. As they talked about the water in the well, he said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.” In other words, the full life is found in a relationship with Jesus—following him, submitting our lives to him, and being transformed by him. When we do that, our thirst is finally quenched. Famous British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge said it brilliantly:
“I may, I suppose, regard myself, or pass for being, as a relatively successful man. People occasionally stare at me in the streets—that’s fame. I can fairly easily earn enough to qualify for admission to the higher slopes of the Internal Revenue—that’s success. Furnished with money and a little fame even the elderly, if they care to, may partake of trendy diversions—that’s pleasure. It might happen once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently heeded for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our time—that’s fulfillment. Yet I say to you—and I beg you to believe me—multiply these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are nothing—less than nothing, a positive impediment—measured against one draught of that living water Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty, irrespective of who or what they are.”
Sound off: What are some other things people trust in that fall short of expectations?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think it takes to trust someone?”