Monday, August 7, 2023

Looking for an Escape (Psalm 39)

"Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor" (Ps. 39:5).

The futility of life can be ignored, but it can’t be denied. Everyone who does not have Jesus Christ as their Savior feels the meaningless of life, and they’re doing everything possible to run from it. Today we will examine two of the most common ways people try to escape the futility of life as they search for happiness.

Some turn to stoicism. Stoics try to maintain an emotionless outlook on everything. They don’t let the woes of life penetrate their iron-clad veneer. Stoics believe that happiness resides in rigid self-control. Just stay cool and don’t let anything bother you.

Another more common way people try to find happiness is through the maximization of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. The ancient Greeks who held to this hedonistic philosophy were called Epicureans. They did not want to overdose on pleasure—and thus become bored with life—but they wanted to maintain just the right amount of pleasure to keep life interesting. This is probably the most prevalent form of escape in today’s society. People want to avoid pain as much as possible and to maximize their pleasure, thus numbing their consciences of the futility of such an endeavor and filling up their lives with a constant stream of distraction.

The goal of maximizing pleasure is pursued in a variety of ways. Some people seek pleasure in sexual exploits. Some fill up their life with entertainment. They can’t have a quiet moment to think or reflect. They constantly have the television or the radio blaring. Others saturate their minds with the numbing effects of drugs and alcohol. They can’t deal with the realities of life, so they try to maintain a constant high—the maximization of pleasure.

On the flip side of hedonism is the avoidance of pain. Women abort their children because they don’t want to be inconvenienced. Families kill their elderly relatives—and call it mercy—because they don’t want to deal with the struggles of old age.

Happiness can only be found in Jesus Christ. Neither stoicism nor hedonism can bring lasting peace to our souls and meaning to our lives. Neither pleasure, nor dispassionate resolve, but only Christ keeps our souls firm and secure, anchored amid swirling currents of despair.

Throughout the day, listen for ways people try to deny the passions of life through stoicism and for ways they want to maximize pleasure and avoid pain. Read the newspaper, listen to news reports, talk to people. Confess ways that you have turned to hedonistic/stoic methods instead of Christ in trying to deal with the vanity of life.