What if you were tethered to a treadmill running at about four miles an hour? There is no off switch on this treadmill and nobody around to release you from the tether. Even if you were in great shape, you wouldn’t survive the experience. On and on you would run until your body finally gave way.
This is a picture of what life can ultimately feel like when you are constantly running after things the world thinks are valuable—money, power, sex, security, prestige. No matter how hard or how long you run, you will never be satisfied—the treadmill just keeps going. In the end, your wholehearted pursuit of such things will destroy rather than fulfill you.
If this is so, why do we keep pursuing what will not satisfy? One reason is that we get a temporary sense of well-being. With enough money in the bank, we feel secure. With children in the best schools, we feel confident they will succeed. With each new purchase, we get a little hit of pleasure. There’s a lot of positive reinforcement. But the system only works if we keep on keeping on, finding something else to feed our pleasure machine. The problem comes, of course, when the system is disrupted and the machine breaks down. We lose a job, our investments sour, a child strays, we become ill. When some or all of the things we counted on to make our life feel meaningful, safe, and pleasurable are taken from us, what then?
Such disruptions can be incredibly painful and frightening. They may throw us into a season of tremendous anxiety. We may for a time feel exhausted, empty, and lost. But what if they are, in the end, a godsend, an opportunity to get free from the tether, to stop living on a treadmill and begin living a life of greater peace and freedom?
If you find that you are spending time on that treadmill, ask God to free you so you can pursue the peace that comes from having his goals and desires at the center of your heart.