I hail from the land of the cheese and home of the Packers, none other than the sometimes frozen tundra of Wisconsin, where cows graze and hope to find a speck of hay not frozen solid. With those frigid temperatures, I developed a deep respect for our furnace at a young age as we tried to stay warm, even when the thermometer read -15 degrees.
As the oldest of four children, our house never lacked for love, laughter and warmth. Really the only thing missing was a family pet.
When we begged and pleaded for a pet of our own, never did I imagine I would have to settle for a fluffy hamster named Spike. While he wasn’t the dog I had envisioned in my childhood fantasies, he would have to do. My mom said that we had kids, not pets. (I can COMPLETELY understand this philosophy now that I have children!)
While Spike was fun enough, I couldn’t understand his love affair with his wheel as he chased nothing for hours. When that no longer satisfied him, he would find a way to escape to the depths of our house and into the furnace. Since it was ALWAYS on, suddenly our noses would be assaulted with the most putrid odor; one that resembled singing and burning hair. We quickly learned that Spike was a little Houdini and master escape artist. Comically, it became routine. When we smelled singing hair, we quickly checked the hamster cage as mom or dad rushed to rescue our tiny friend from being engulfed by flames.
Memories of Spike always make me smile and as an adult reflecting on my childhood, I realize that my fluffy friend and I are similar in many ways. Unable to understand his constant need to run in circles with my simple, child mind, I completely understand his compulsion as an adult.
I understand because I am on my own fictitious hamster wheel, running in a never ending circle, exhausted and weary from striving and chasing the wind. I keep running, keep balancing, keep doing, keep striving. All for what? Why do I, like so many, try to run this unattainable race until I am ragged and have nothing left to give?
For everyone, the motive is different, though the outcomes are often the same. In my non-expert opinion, those who are running in circles (a.k.a. striving), fall into two categories; those who strive for possessions and materialism and those who strive for peace and fulfillment.
Those who strive for materialism and possessions are looking for riches, things that are new and bigger and better. The more they acquire, the more they must have. It is never enough and no matter how many toys are in the toy box, those types will always want more and will never be satiated. Ever.
The other category, those seeking peace and fulfillment, are desperate to stumble upon anything, or sometimes anyone, that will give them hope, peace, fulfillment, and love.
The irony of these two categories is that they are often intertwined and overflow into the other category. For example, Johnny searches for riches because he longs for peace and hope, even if he doesn’t realize it. Regardless of category label, both categories have the same outcome.
Lack of satisfaction.
We, as humans, were not designed to be fulfilled here on earth and yet we grasp at straws, striving to do more, be better and find “happiness” under every rock.
Striving starts innocent enough, often with a harmless goal. But those goals can overtake and overpower our lives in the blink of an eye and we may find ourselves placing happiness as a contingency of reaching these goals. Can you relate to any of these statements?
I will be happy when I lose 25 pounds.
I will be happy when we make more money.
I will be happy when I have a bigger house.
I will be happy when I have kids.
I will be happy if I get new clothes.
I will be happy when this season of life is over and the next begins.
At some point in our lives, most of us have been this desperate, racing on our hamster wheels, searching and striving for fulfillment in the things of this world. These situations have been us, in some form or another, racing for happiness and seeking peace.
But fulfillment is fleeting, Once we achieve what we are striving for, what we hope for and long for, it won’t leave us filled. For a short time we may experience a high that can accompany reaching a milestone, but it will never bring us true satisfaction. It only whetts our appetite, and leaves us hungry for more.
There is a reason this kind of contentment can’t last. There is a reason that striving is a vicious cycle and will start over again shortly when we reach our goal.
The truth is, we all have a void inside of us that can ONLY be filled by God.
NOTHING else can fill it but His presence and His peace.
He created you and sculpted you EXACTLY as you are. He designed you to desire Him above all else. By seeking Him, knowing Him, spending time with Him, praising Him, worshiping Him, talking with Him and listening to Him, that void that cries out to filled, becomes full and complete.
He wants you to seek Him as the filler of joy and longing. NOTHING of this world will satisfy you and quench you like the spirit of the Lord.
Whether or not you realize it, He is calling YOU.
He is calling YOU to walk with Him and to have a relationship with Him.
He is calling YOU to stop striving to and seek fulfillment in His presence.
He is calling YOU to rest in His peace and to cease your striving for things of this world.
He is calling YOU to let Him shelter you from the storm and to lay your burdens down.
That void inside that demands to be filled and drives you to seek wholeness and completion, is finally fulfilled at the foot of the cross. Jesus is enough. Stop striving.
I’ve found that sometimes my striving grows wildly out of control and I’ve completely taken my eyes off the Lord. I am trapped in the furnace of life, like my hamster Spike. It is then, when I cry out to the Lord, that He reaches His mighty hands into the furnace to rescue me. He dusts me off, holds me, and reminds me that the parameters for how to live life abundantly that He has given me through His Word, are not like Spike’s cage.
I am not trapped by His guidelines and don’t need to escape my “cage”, searching for the things and experiences I think I need to be filled. Instead, life with Jesus is where there is true completion and fulfillment. I no longer have to strive, looking for temporary happiness, because I get to rest in the shelter of the Almighty and live a life contented knowing Him intimately and having a relationship with Him. What an amazing experience it is to live in that freedom and to get off the hamster wheel and live in His peace!
Today, you can rest in His presence, too. I urge you to stop running, stop striving and seek Him for true fulfillment. Only then will you be satisfied. Will you take His hand? He is calling YOU!
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