Have you ever wondered why once you have achieved some cherished goal, it does not satisfy you the way you thought it would? I remember Ravi Zacharias saying many years ago, “The loneliest moment in life is when you have just experienced or achieved the ultimate, and it has let you down.”
I recently read the transcript of the valedictory address given by Kyle Martin at the Kings Academy Prep school in West Palm Beach, Florida. His words were very insightful:
I stand before you tonight as the 2019 valedictorian. This time last year, I found out that I was in the running for this title. It was then that I decided that I wanted it. So, I worked hard for it. I sacrificed for it and, yes, I stressed for it. And I got it! And, at our senior award ceremony, it felt so good when I heard my name announced with the title. So Good! For about 15 seconds. Yeah. 15 seconds of my heart racing and my adrenaline pumping. 15 seconds of, “Yeah, I won!” 15 seconds of being at the top of the pile of all my accomplishments, and it felt euphoric. But there must come a 16th second. And, on that 16th second, I sat down on my seat, looked at my silver stole that says valedictorian, and I thought, “That’s it? What just happened? Why am I not feeling anything else?”
To be honest, I don’t even know what I was expecting. A parade of balloons to drop? Or, maybe I was hoping that all my problems would fade away in comparison to this amazing achievement. But none of that happened, not even in my heart. I felt nothing. I was shocked.
I believe Martin’s words reflect what so many people experience over the course of their lives. It makes you wonder if everything we have ever thought about life’s accomplishments and finding satisfaction is naïve and possibly greatly mistaken. I think we end up overestimating the duration of our emotional experience when we achieve our highest goals. It can be incredibly disappointing and quite perplexing.
Philosopher Dallas Willard loved to tell the true story about the dog races in Florida. He says:
They train these dogs to chase an electric rabbit, and one night the rabbit broke down and the dogs caught it. But they didn’t know what to do with it. They were just leaping around, yelping and biting one another, totally confused about what was happening. I think that’s a picture of what happens to all sorts of people who catch the rabbit in their life. Whether it’s wealth or fame or beauty or a bigger house, or whatever, the prize isn’t what they thought it would be. And when they finally get it, they don’t know what to do with their lives.
Willard believes this is a major factor in why people find life to be so disappointing. The rabbit they chase does not satisfy. This is why he believed, “We all need a rabbit that won’t break down.” It must be tied to something that transcends the individual life!
Dr. Tim Keller put it in these words, “If you expect this world to give you happiness, you will be utterly disappointed, because you are asking the world to give you something it cannot give.”
The reason these words ring true is because this yearning in our innermost being is a spiritual desire of the soul. What we do not seem to realize is that we have a deep thirst in our souls that only God can satisfy.
King David recognized this, which is reflected in his own words from the Psalms:
“For he has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.” (Psalm 107:9)
“As the deer pants for the waterbrook, so my soul thirsts for God.” (Psalm 42:1)
Psychiatrist Gerald May observed, “After 20 years of listening to the yearnings of people’s hearts, I am convinced that human beings have an inborn desire for God. Whether we are consciously religious or not, this desire is our deepest longing and most precious treasure.”
This is the rabbit that won’t break down.
Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.