The Key to Happiness
Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. John 6:27
I seem to have two very different wills. I have a now-appetite, which seeks immediate gratification, usually with some painful price to be paid later, and I have a later-appetite, which sacrifices up front, providing delayed but more authentic satisfaction in the end. I’ve fed both. My drug addiction is a prime example of feeding my now-appetite. In seeking pleasure in a pill, I found absolute misery. My recovery then, is a perfect example of the opposite behavior. In recovery, I’ve put in the hard work and sacrifice, denying the now-appetite, which has led to a joy I never could have found in the pill.
Most of us can identify with some self-destructive now-appetite. Some of us pursue immediate gratification in food or lust, while others find it in money, self-adulation, or screen time. We all have that place we go to find instant, but fleeting happiness. The problem of course, is that it doesn’t last. By indulging in our self-destructive appetites, we accrue a debt that must be repaid, producing misery later.
Jesus addressed this conflict in today’s passage. He had just fed the crowd of 5,000 a day earlier, when the same crowd followed him around the Sea of Galilee, hoping for more of his miraculous food. Jesus told them not to seek the bread that perishes but rather, to seek the bread of eternal life. He said that true life was not found in the immediate gratification of feeding our flesh, but rather in feeding our spirit by seeking him.
It’s not that screen time, food, or money are necessarily evil in themselves. It’s just that when we rely on those things for our joy and meaning, we become enslaved to that which cannot provide true satisfaction. When we seek happiness in our now-appetite, we surrender the possibility of finding true joy in following God. In feeding our now-appetite, we’re only satisfied for a moment, soon finding ourselves miserable and hungry again.
If we want to know a truly joyful life, we must be honest with ourselves, identifying those now-appetites that make us miserable. We must daily work at sacrificing those things so that we may seek God, who is the only answer to all of our live’s deepest needs.