None of us can escape the underlying sense of displeasure and disappointment in life. We may not feel it as acutely every day, but it's experienced often enough that each of us rears up with the urge to do something about it, to get out from under the weight, to pick up the pieces, and to fix it.
As we search for relief, we typically run down four primary paths for a quick fix. But they're all crooked, dead-end paths leading to empty wells.
Watch this video about the Bible study, Recovering Redemption, by pastor and author Matt Chandler. The article continues below.
What you'll see in the four crooked paths you're about to examine is that no matter how much progress you may feel you're making, no matter what temporary relief you may experience in distancing yourself from some pain or discomfort, none of the paths ultimately arrive at wholeness. There are no shortcuts. No alternative routes. None of these paths will ever lead to freedom. None of the wells from which you draw will ever fill you to satisfaction. The temporary quenching of your thirst is only a mirage, baiting you to travel further down the dead-end road. The wells dry up, and you hit rock bottom, trapped deep in the hole you've been digging.
We're fixers who can't truly fix anything.
So, it's time for a reality check. No hiding or passing the blame. Get gut-level honest about the four (wrong) places we all run to fix our brokenness.
Hard to believe it, based on our sketchy track record, but we've thoroughly convinced ourselves that the cure for what's wrong with us is a better version of ourselves. Somewhere in our heads is a future person who's the embodiment of self-disciplined, self-defined perfection, that ideal self who'll turn our whole world right side up.
Every relationship we enter will struggle and will often fail whenever we make the other person into a god who's supposed to make us complete.
Men make terrible gods. Women make terrible gods. Children make terrible gods. Friends, colleagues, teammates, parents, boyfriends/girlfriends - you name it.
Whenever you expect people to fill the cracks that are gaping open in your heart, you're moving not in the direction of freedom and healing, not into the experience of being full and satisfied, but down a dark well of conflict and chaos.
The expectation that others can somehow become for us the answer to all our problems is to put an impossible weight on them that they were never intended or equipped to carry. It's going to make life miserable for everybody.
Everyone is jacked up. Everyone has issues. How crazy is it to expect other broken people to fix and rescue you or anyone else? Others simply can't redeem us.
3. The World
Another path we recklessly wander down, thinking the solution to all our problems is waiting just over the next hill, is the one filled with the world's pleasures.
One of the biggest lies about this empty well is that the road is paved only with socially taboo evils. But any of the inherently pleasurable things in this world, given freely as good gifts from a loving Father, can be abused and misused. Settling for anything as sufficient for our happiness, rather than enjoying the Giver of the gift, is idolatry.
When we buy new stuff (maybe with money we don't even have) because it makes us feel we've accomplished something ... When we take that bite believing it will bring satisfaction to an otherwise mundane or stressful experience ... When we're dying for sex - maybe with someone new this time - hoping it will calm jittery insecurities ...
We're elevating created things above their Creator. But the world doesn't have what's needed to redeem us.
This one can be the most deceptive path. It knows all the right things to say and do at all the right times. It can be cheered on and admired by well-meaning individuals, small groups, or even churches. It could even have you leading this small group.
Religion may be the most dangerous well to draw from, because it can appear to be the life God desires for us. The problem is under the surface. The issue is motivation.
If we're honest, the shocking truth is that religion is just a better version of you (see No. 1) with a choir robe on shouting, "Amen!" You are seeking to create self-worth and acceptance by proving your devotion. You're trying to tip the scales in your favor by doing one more good thing. But your Heavenly Father isn't looking to be impressed by your report card. Your trophies will never earn His approval and affection. He already loves you. Unconditionally.
The answer to your problem isn't at the bottom of any of the four wells we all run to. They hold no lasting satisfaction. Be aware of the ways you run down crooked paths to empty wells. Prayerfully remind yourself that you're designed to be completely dependent on your Creator and then trust your loving Father.
The truth is that you can't fix yourself. But don't worry ... there's good news coming.
This article is excerpted from Recovering Redemption.