Have you ever heard about the greyhound races? Those dogs are fast! They run so fast because they’re chasing a mechanical rabbit. A friend told me that one day on a racetrack in Florida an interesting thing happened: the rabbit broke so the dogs caught it!
Now you might think that it would make the dogs happy to finally catch the rabbit after all those races in which they couldn’t quite get a bite out of him. But actually when they caught the mechanical rabbit they didn’t know what to do! They became confused and depressed -- they lost their purpose. They never recovered and were ruined as race dogs.
What are You Chasing?
The same thing happens when a gambler wins the lottery. For others, depression hits when they finally reach the top of the ladder, win the big game, get their girl, or buy the house with a picket fence. Why?
Because it’s the chase, not the catch, that excites us and helps us feel that we have purpose and identity. That’s what Blaise Pascal, the brilliant Christian philosopher and scientist from France in the 17th Century, said in his classic book, Pensées (French for “thoughts”). He explained that chasing a rabbit is a diversion. We want to distract ourselves from our unhappiness, which guarantees that we never become truly happy.
The Cause of Your Unhappiness
Pascal concluded, “The sole cause of a person’s unhappiness is...”
Wait. Before I give you Pascal’s answer, how would you complete that sentence? What do you believe is the cause of people’s unhappiness? Probably you can come up with a “Christian” answer for that. But think about it practically and personally. When you slide into a melancholy mood what triggers that?
Maybe it’s criticism or feeling rejected. Maybe it’s when you compare yourself to someone else and feel that you haven’t achieved as much, or aren’t as attractive, or don’t have as good of a life.
Pascal’s surprising analysis was: “The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his own room” (Pensées #136).
Solitude as Therapy
When was the last time you did that? When have you set aside some hours to stop your rabbit chasing and other busyness and unplug from the noisy, entertaining world around you?
“Be still and know...” When we actually do that then we begin to feel unimportant. Or whatever anxiousness, frustration, pain, or emptiness that we’ve been repressing surfaces. Or we become aware of our mortality. One glimpse at this inner darkness and most of us retreat to our diversions. But if we persist in solitude, seeking Christ in the midst of whatever discomfort surfaces from deep within us then we will find that indeed the Spirit of Christ is there to heal our brokenness and fill in our emptiness.
The 23rd Psalm that we love says it so beautifully. When we rely on the Lord alone our Shepherd who meets our needs, submitting to him as he “makes us” lie down in green pastures and leads us beside still waters, then we discover that it’s really true: “He restores my soul” (Psalm 12:1-3).
The word of the Lord is true: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
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Bill Gaultiere, Ph.D. & Kristi Gaultiere, Psy.D. ~ http://www.soulshepherding.org
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