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Where Do You Find Pleasure?

by Christi Estes

Recently I was reminded of a young girl I knew in my youth. She sought all of her pleasure and fulfillment in her accomplishments. From the earliest times she could remember she sought approval. At the tender age of 7, she got up early one morning to scrub the floors like "Cinderella," hoping to gain her parent's praise; only to be told not to scrub too hard lest she would scrub the pattern off the linoleum. She was crushed, but not beaten.

She continued on this path through her school days seeking to gain accolades from her academic and dance teachers and anywhere else she could find them. And she was often successful. She was a gifted learner and dancer earning lead roles in recitals and awards for her scholarly success. How did she feel, you ask? She felt good at the moment of success, but that soon faded and then the striving started all over again.

Approval was like a drug to her. She sought it out wherever she could find it. Working to please, striving to gain. But, strangely, with each new achievement, her confidence did not grow. It simply sought more and more praise. Finally, the fear set in. That it would never be enough. There would never be enough praise, enough worldly gain to satisfy her need for approval. And life took on a hazy cast that caused disappointment, depression, anxiety, and loneliness. There has to be more, she thought.

As you may have guessed, this young lady, with all of her confusion and misdirection, was me. And I know that I am not alone in this story. Sadly, many of us readily fall into this trap. The world tells us that the more we accomplish and the more we gain, the happier we will be. Well, I'm here to tell you, it's a lie. No amount of fame, fortune, glory or money will ever completely fulfill you.

Have you ever heard the expression "God shaped void"? This is what I had- a God shaped void in my spirit that could never be filled with worldly gain. Praise didn't fill it. Awards were not the right shape. And money left the void empty too. Only God could fill that void.

Paul tells us in Philippians 3:7-9

"Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in Him..."

Slowly, through the journey of my life, God has begun to fill my void. He does it gently and with love; easing me into a new life, helping me overcome my fears, and filling my void with His presence. He shows me that I am loved just for who I am, not for what I do or what I accomplish. He allows me to rest my body and my mind. He lovingly cradles me like a child and allows me to rest in Him. He has also opened my eyes to the important things. Not the trophies, the big salary, the second home and the praises of man. These things feel good at the time, but there is no lasting peace or pleasure in them. He continually shows me that only through Him and His Son, Jesus Christ, can I find true fulfillment.

It is so easy for me to backslide in this crazy world of ours. But daily, if I am in tune with Him, He reveals to me the farce of seeking worldly praise. His love is unconditional, not based on worldly ways. This need for receiving accolades by man is hard work. We humans are very fickle creatures!

One of the main ways He has shown me the lie of seeking worldly gain and approval is through my daughter and other special children around me. Though many of these kids aren't listed on their school honor roll, aren't the fastest runners or the kids who receive the most awards, they are each winners in God's eyes. No one can tell me that my daughter's best efforts in reading don't mean as much just because she doesn't score at a high-ranking reading level or that the loving hug from a Down syndrome child is any less meaningful than winning a state-championship. These acts and accomplishments, though not often recognized by an award, are just as meaningful to God as the biggest prize known to man. And if they are done in obedience to God, they are more meaningful than any worldly accomplishment.

God puts life into perspective for us one day at a time. Will we be open to receiving His direction and following Him fully?

Allow Him to bless you with the unexpected but promised gift of His all-consuming love.

This guest post submitted by Christi Estes.  Christi can be found sharing her reflections on God’s blessings for and through children who face life challenges at www.journeyofunexpectedgifts.blogspot.com.