What is ‘Real’ Happiness? [v49]

MARCH 2003

IS REAL HAPPINESS DOING WHAT ONE WANTS WHEN ONE WANTS TO? —In the novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” Oscar Wilde describes an exceptionally handsome young man so captivating that he drew the adulation of a great artist. The artist asked him to be the subject of a portrait for he had never seen a face so attractive and so pure. When the painting was completed, young Dorian became so enraptured by his own looks that he wistfully imagined that it would be wonderful if he could live any way he pleased and that any disfigurement of a lawless lifestyle would only mar the picture—but leave his own countenance unblemished. In ‘Faustian’ style, he was willing to trade his soul for that wish.

One day, alone and pensive, Dorian went up to the attic and uncovered the portrait that he had kept hidden, only to be shocked by what he saw. Horror, hideousness and blood marred the portrait.

The charade came to an end when the artist himself saw the picture. It told the story. He pled with Dorian to come clean, saying, “Does it not say somewhere, ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow’?” But in a fit of rage to silence that voice, Dorian grabbed a knife and killed the artist.

Only one thing was left for him to do—he took the knife to remove the only visible reminder of his wicked life. The moment he thrust the blade into the canvas, the portrait returned to its pristine beauty, while Dorian lay stabbed to death on the floor. The ravages that had marred the picture now so disfigured him that even his servants could no longer recognize him.

What a brilliant illustration of how a soul, though invisible, can nonetheless be tarnished. I wonder, if there were to be a portrait of my soul or your soul, how would it best be depicted? Does not the conscience sting, when we think in these terms? Though we have engineered many ways of avoiding physical consequences, how does one cleanse the soul?

We too, face Dorian’s predicament. Sooner or later, a duplicitous life reveals the cost. The soul is not forever invisible. But there is One who can cleanse and restore us. Indeed, hear the words of the Biblical prophet Isaiah to which Oscar Wilde alluded: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as white as wool” [Isaiah 1:18]. The greatest artist of all, the God of the Bible, speaks to each and every one of us even today about the eternal ‘costs’.

I couldn’t help but think that at some level that the ‘picture’ of Dorian Gray had to be somewhat autobiographical— seeing what is the sum result of living in excess with no borders or boundaries.

I think this man is the quintessential expression of what our “pleasure-mad” culture today needs to read—and especially what he expressed in his closing poem—the Ballad of Reading Gaol…

And every human heart
that breaks
In prison-cell or yard,
Is as that broken box
that gave
Its treasure to the Lord,
And filled the unclean
leper’s house
With the scent of
costliest nard.

Ah! happy day they whose hearts can break
And peace of pardon win!
How else may man make straight his plan
And cleanse his soul from Sin?
How else but through a broken heart
May Lord Christ enter in?

Isn’t it amazing that this same man, who was known for his excesses and his decadence, is the same man who could pen those words. Does that not speak then to the hunger of every human heart—what kinds of appetites we may have…and which ones may we indulge in? This raises the whole question of ‘wisdom’.

Wisdom provides the theoretical framework on which to make judgments, but wisdom (like the Law) does not empower you to do the right thing or to do the right in your judgments. To know the law and to know wisdom is a very important prerequisite. Even one of the wisest men ever to live, Israel’s King Solomon, said he was growing in all the power and fame and possessions, though he was heading in the wrong direction. He made the fascinating statement, “In all of this, my wisdom still stayed with me.” Meaning, he still knew which was the right way to go, but didn’t actually go that way himself.

Here’s the point: I think we need to bear in mind that ethical systems, in and of themselves, cannot transform the human spirit. It takes the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit who gives you the power and the will to do that what is right. Solomon never became the kind of person who drew on that power and drew that will in his relationships. He refashioned his hungers, and the love of many women turned his heart away from God. So, it is knowledge and will, and God’s indwelling that can bring both together properly.

That’s why I think Oscar Wilde penned the following from his jail cell…

And with tears of blood he cleansed the hand,
The hand that held the steel:
For only blood can wipe
out blood,
And only tears can heal:
And the crimson stain that
was of Cain
Became Christ’s snow-white seal.

I’m pretty sure that you also know about another person that had a ‘problem’ with their desires— Sampson, and his tempteress, Delilah. Samson was sure he knew what would make him happy, and he charged ahead, taking one wrong turn after another. He banked on ‘image’ to get him by and refused to confront his feelings of fear and inadequacy.

But Samson’s story offers the ray of hope we all need. Mostly by accident, Samson shows us the way around escapism and fear to a living faith in the God. Such faith represents Christ’s plan of salvation for all of us, for it’s by His grace that we’re saved through faith, not of ourselves [Ephesians 2:8-9].

Samson’s story exemplifies what God wants all of us to do—to turn our lives over to Jesus, and for Him to take over our misdirected desires. He’s ready to remove sin’s blemish and transform our lives, making us free of fear and full of promise.

We’re all spiritually broken—we don’t work according to the ‘Manufacturer’s  specifications’. People were designed to function with God’s presence as the glue for keeping their souls intact. Subsequent to Adam and Eve, the human soul attempted to make do without God—filling the vacuum inside through pretense and bluster. Wayward lifestyles help the average person deny his pain, loneliness, anger and any hunger of the soul that might surface.

The Samson ‘trap’ can be boiled down to the lies that our sinful natures settle for. We end up believing that management through self-will is the best way to go. But the Holy Spirit points us to the godly management of our souls’ appetites.

The Bible says, ” Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” [James 1:12].

I think that one of the weaknesses of our age is inability to distinguish ‘needs’ from ‘greeds’.  I would like to encourage you to ponder what some of your ‘intense’ desires have or are doing to you—the things that you will do ‘anything’ for. Are they things that ‘wear out’ or get used up? Our are they things that have eternal ‘consequences’?

[Excerpts from: Ravi Zacharias]



If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at: mbesh@ameritech.net

Thanks to:
Gene Besh

Take it to heart, people…  Two traveling angels stopped to spend the night  in the home of a  wealthy family.  The family was rude and refused  to let the  angels  stay in the mansion’s guest room.  Instead the  angels were given a  space  in the cold basement.  As they made their bed  on the hard floor,  the  older angel saw a hole in the wall and repaired it.  When the  younger  angel asked why, the older angel  replied…”Things aren’t always  what  they seem”.

The next night the pair came to rest at the house  of a very poor,  but  very hospitable farmer and his wife.   After  sharing what little  food  they had the couple let the angels sleep in their  bed where they  could  have a good night’s rest.   When the sun came  up the next morning  the  angels found the farmer and his wife in tears.  Their only cow,  whose  milk had been their sole income, lay dead in the  field.

The younger angel was infuriated and asked the  older angel “how  could  you have let this happen!?  The first man had  everything, yet you  helped  him, she accused.  “The second family had little  but was willing to  share everything, and you let their cow die.”

“Things aren’t always what they seem,” the older  angel replied.  “When  we stayed in the basement of the mansion, I  noticed there was  gold  stored in that hole in the wall.  Since the owner  was  so  obsessed  with  greed and unwilling to share his good fortune, I  sealed the wall  so  he  wouldn’t find it.  Then last night as we slept in the  farmers bed,  the  angel of death came for his wife.  I gave her the  cow instead.  Things  aren’t always what they seem.”

Sometimes this is exactly what happens when  things don’t turn out  the  way they should. If you have faith, you just  need  to trust that  every  outcome is always to your advantage.  You might  not know it until  some time later.

Think about this:

Should you find it hard to get to sleep tonight;  Just remember the homeless family who has no  bed to lie in.

Should you find yourself stuck in traffic;
don’t despair.  There are people in this world for  whom  driving is an unheard of privilege.

Should you have a bad day at work; Think of the man who has been out of work for  the last  three months.

Should you despair over a relationship gone bad;  Think of the person who has never known what  it’s like to love  and  be  loved in return. Should you grieve the passing of another  weekend;  Think of the woman in dire straits, working twelve  hours a day,  seven  days a week, for $15.00 to feed  her family.  Should your car break down, leaving you miles  away from  assistance;  Think of the paraplegic who would love the opportunity to take that  walk.

Should you notice a new gray hair in the mirror;  Think of the cancer patient in chemo who wishes  she had  hair to examine.  Should you find yourself at a loss and pondering  what is life all  about, asking “what is my purpose”;  Be thankful, there are those who didn’t live long  enough to get the  opportunity. Should you find yourself the victim of other  people’s bitterness, ignorance, smallness or insecurities;  Remember, things could be worse. You could be them!!!

It’s so simple to be wise. Just think of something stupid to say and say the opposite.
[Sam Levinson]

Tomorrow marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany’s greatest poet and writer.  All across Germany
celebrations are being held in his honor, featuring readings of his work, performances of his plays, and films based on his work.

The one work of literature for which Goethe is best known is Faust, which retells a legend exploring the moral limits of human power.  Today, two hundred years after he wrote it, Faust seems eerily prophetic: Never before have these themes been more timely.

The Faust legend goes back many centuries, and tells the story of a man who yearns for infinite knowledge and god-like power.  Eventually, Faust turns to black magic and makes a pact with the devil, known in the play as
Mephistopheles. Mephistopheles grants Faust the knowledge he craves–in exchange for his soul. That’s where we get the phrase “to make a Faustian bargain.”

In earlier versions of the legend, Faust is damned to hell for his Promethean overreaching, his yearning to “be like God, knowing good and evil,” as the serpent put it in the Garden of Eden.  “Faust covets divine status,” explains literary critic Roger Shattuck, and in the end he is suitably punished.

But surprisingly, in Goethe’s version, Faust is not condemned but goes to heaven.  In other words, Goethe “calmly usurps the Lord’s role and reverses the verdict,” as Shattuck writes.  “Here is our modern Adam, raised up to heaven by a chorus of angels for conduct more proud and defiant than what earned the original Adam banishment from paradise.”

The message is that there is no forbidden knowledge, nothing beyond human reach—even if it costs us our soul.

Goethe has reversed the very essence of the story. He has abandoned the classical view that knowledge has a moral dimension and that it can sometimes cost us our humanity.  This classical perspective looks back to Adam and Eve, whose grasping for the knowledge of good and evil meant disobedience, and ultimately death.  The same view is conveyed in myths like the story of Pandora’s box.  It was expressed by one of Goethe’s own contemporaries, Mary Shelley, in her classic novel Frankenstein, where an attempt to play God creates a monster who comes back to haunt its human creator.

By contrast, with Goethe we begin to see a distinctively modern view: that the search for knowledge is sacrosanct and should not be limited in
any way—not even by moral considerations.  Scientific progress is the new summum bonum, which trumps all other values: If an experiment can be done, you can bet that eventually it WILL be done. Modern science
has unleashed first the atom and now the gene, yet we rarely hear anyone ask, What price will we pay for these technologies?  Ours is Faustian generation if there ever was one.

We need to help people to see that certain kinds of experiments may in the end destroy our humanity.  Why not read Goethe’s play for yourself, to better understand the intellectual challenges we face today.

Faust may help us understand what we are up against, in an age ready to sell its own soul in exchange for scientific knowledge.
[Chuck Colson-BreakPoint Commentary #90827 – 8/27/1999]

Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he hold his tongue [Proverbs 17:28]

The virtue of man ought to be measured, not by his extraordinary exertions, but by his everyday conduct  [Blaise Pascal]

How could you have hurt me so, after the things we shared?

My desire motivated me to do the things I could for you.

Things I couldn’t imagine myself doing for anyone else.

It deludes my mind, overwhelms my heart.

Your lies constantly enticing me to believe that I want you,
and you the same.

Desire affects me, afflicts me, drives me to distraction.

I am at its mercy when it comes to you.

These things my heart speaks to you in vain, for never have I met anyone

We are all like the moon, we have a dark side we don’t want anyone to see.  [Mark Twain]

God will not allow you to have a relationship with Him and chase the world’s pleasures. I had to give up one or the other. I chose to stay with God.  [Jim Anthony-Received from Gene Besh]

The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese!  [Steven Wright]

Hope you enjoyed some of these insights—share them with your friends and colleagues—so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from, and more to share with!

Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  [Luke 12:15]


Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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