A couple of years ago, Joel Osteen wrote a very popular book, Your Best Life Now. This book struck a chord with all sorts of people because that seems to be the goal of most of civilized society across the globe, especially in the western world. Surprisingly it has even become a cherished goal of those who follow Jesus!
It’s actually our religion these days. Whether people are arguing for changing their bodies, giving in to their desires, or trusting in Jesus to make them happy now, most place their hope in being everything they can be in these short few years on earth.
Of course, if humans are the result of random circumstance strapped with an unknown amount of time to live, this is a laudable endeavor. Complete your bucket lists before the clock stops. Satisfy you desires before the bell rings. Why waste your limited time on a scripted charade given to you by others? Self actualize or you will regret it. St. Paul would agree, as he writes to the Corinthians; if there is no resurrection than we (Christians) are to be pitied more than anyone.
Of course even if there was no God, let alone hope, the logic behind pursuing happiness and avoiding suffering at all cost falls apart quickly in practice. Some of the greatest joys are the result of suffering. And the pursuit of happiness frequently fails as goalposts are moved. Desires ruin individuals and those around them. Whether one likes it or not, life is suffering. The problem isn’t just that the world is broken, but human beings are deeply tragic figures. They can have everything go right for them and still ruin it beyond repair!
Self Actualization? While self reflection bears a lot of fruit, taking inventory of talents and faults, our deep search for the “real” me frequently renders us more lost than when we first began. Deconstructing yourself to find your essence is like chopping up a chicken to look for the chicken. And who are you to uncover your biases? You’re like a Third World dictator voting against yourself. It doesn’t happen. Read Kafka’s the Trial or Metamorphis. Accuse the system all you want. You are it’s chief architect and you don’t even know it.
Be a Stoic or an Epicurean, the end is the same.
While you were busy pursuing happiness, self actualization, fixing yourself, fixing the world, or just giving in to yourself, the Kingdom of Heaven has come. The Joy of Heaven has descended not waiting for us to ascend. Jesus. Happiness incarnate.
Your twisted soul has been straightened in the flesh of your divine brother. Your abysmal destiny has been completed in Him on the cross and its direction corrected in the empty tomb. Like it or not, you will be around a lot longer than 80 some-odd years.
Just as Christ rose again, so will you by His promise and gift. You don’t need to desperately cling to the now. The pressure to live your best life now is relieved. There is no rush. You don’t need to find yourself, be yourself, transcend yourself. You will achieve all these on the last day. You will truly know yourself, you will truly be yourself, you will truly be one with the universe on that glorious day. You will rise again without corruption of body or soul. Your dumb passions will be exchanged for good ones. Your burning discontent will be doused with living water.
So Jesus says, “Come to me all who are tired and heavy laden and I will give them rest!” Jesus gives us the best life now. Clinging to His promise of a beautiful future we are freed to actually enjoy the day, whether in struggle or celebration. We are freed to laugh at a wedding reception and cry at a funeral. In Him we have begun our best life now.