Finding satisfaction that lasts

Today’s column examines how a shift in what we devote ourselves to in our daily lives can bring a deeper happiness and peace.

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Bow down and worship a statue of gold that a king set up out of pride? Uh … no thanks! Few of us today would consider doing that. Yet that’s what was demanded of Babylonians in the time of King Nebuchadnezzar, according to the Bible (see Daniel 3).

But hold on! Are there other “idols” in society that could perhaps tempt us? For instance, how about the drive to pursue and accumulate riches well beyond our needs, maybe in the form of bank accounts, investments, real estate, or automobiles?

The Scriptures mention the gold statue because of three young Hebrew men who refused to bow down to the idol, despite a decree by the king demanding that everyone do so. They declined because they were totally devoted to worshiping God, who they understood as the source of all goodness, mercy, and truth. And in fact it was this unswerving spiritual strength that kept them unharmed from the life-threatening penalty they were given.

This story is thousands of years old, but I’ve found it’s a helpful lesson for today, too. When we’re tempted to cling to material objects for security, health, or satisfaction – and to fear that if we don’t, we’ll have to pay a penalty in some way – we can place our whole trust, as those Hebrew men did, in a power that’s more dependable, satisfying, and permanent than anything based on matter.

This passage in the Bible says it beautifully: “Serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing” (I Samuel 12:20, 21, New King James Version). I like to think of serving the Lord as striving to live consistently with the way God made us, His spiritual children: expressing peacefulness, selflessness, kindness, and love. And as the Hebrew men discovered, understanding something of our true nature as the creation of God, who is boundlessly good, brings safety and healing.

Clearly, there’s a place for things like money, exercise, or food in our lives. But we don’t have to “worship” them – that is, to feel our happiness and health depend on them. I’ve seen that when we’re drawn to acquire more and more of these things, we eventually come to find that they are in fact “empty things” that don’t bring permanent satisfaction. As we develop an authentic spiritual understanding of God, divine Spirit, as the only source of true and lasting good, and see everyone as a worthy beneficiary as His loved child, then we see that material objects don’t define a meaningful life – and we don’t have to bow down to them. Ultimately we are able to feel and express more fully the joy, peace, and wholeness God has given each of us.

Adapted from the March 22, 2018, Christian Science Daily Lift podcast.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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