Written for The Christian Science Monitor
Consider two companies. One is a shooting star, capitalizing on a current fad and reaping enormous cash rewards. It pays high salaries, but employee turnover is also high, and there's always the threat of layoffs. The other company is quieter and has grown slowly over time. Its mission statement includes serving the community's best interests. Its salaries are not as high, but this company has shown commitment to its employees, and turnover is low.
Which company would you rather work for? Company A provides short-term gratification; B provides long-term satisfaction.
How we relate to human desires can be approached in the same way. We all yearn for love, purpose, and abundance, and this isn't wrong. The question is, how do we satisfy these desires? Do we pursue short-term solutions in the effort to fill a void, or do we seek more long-term goals? Do we recognize that our yearning indicates a need that must be satisfied spiritually?
Take relationships. A short-term desire might be to find a sexual partner for one night, while a long-term goal might be marriage. Pursuing the short-term desire would actually interfere with reaching the long-term goal. (We can't work for both companies!)
Christ Jesus gave exceptional, long-term advice. He said: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:19-21). The longest-term desire anyone can have is to live in unity with God. Since God is infinite, we can never finish learning of, and growing closer to, Him. He is our creator. The more we know God, the more we know ourselves. Cultivating an understanding of God puts all other desires into perspective. Spiritual understanding can never be taken away, and is indeed a treasure. It solves, restores, improves, and heals.
The trials and choices faced by a king in the Bible have always spoken very clearly to me. Even though he had great faith and trust in God, King David still made mistakes. The two books of Samuel tell David's story in detail. At one point in his life, David indulged in some very short-term desires. In one instance he saw from his roof a woman bathing herself, and, using his position as king, arranged to have her brought to him. Perhaps because her husband was away at war, David thought no one would be the wiser, and he used her.
When the woman sent David a message letting him know she was pregnant with his child, he covered up his having broken the Hebrew law not to commit adultery by having her husband killed in battle and then marrying her himself. But the prophet Nathan told David that his crime was not unknown to God.
David's shame was sharp, and he prayed to be cleansed from sin. His prayer is now known as Psalm 51. It says: "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. . . . Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee" (verses 10, 12, 13). David turned to a worthy goal, committing himself to serving God. The remaining years of his reign strengthened and protected Israel.
Short-term desires shift as time passes. (If you're like me, you may have noticed that sometimes the things you wanted a while ago are no longer as important, whether you got them or not.) But the yearning to live in unity with God is lifelong. Christian Science, discovered by Mary Baker Eddy, assures us that this desire is inherent in our nature as God's sons and daughters. Not only has He created us in His image, He's created us to want to know Him. Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mrs. Eddy says, "The scientific unity which exists between God and man must be wrought out in life-practice, and God's will must be universally done" (p. 202). Working to understand this unity more deeply brings permanent satisfaction and success.