Yes, I know that my last post was on the recent death of a music icon. This one’s a bigger deal in the public’s eye though and serves as somewhat of a follow-up post. This incident once again reaffirms an important point that we humans unfortunately refuse to believe despite seeing it repeatedly play out on cable reality shows – worldly “stuff” does not make your life any better.
“Stuff” could be defined as money, fame, talent, beauty, or whatever else this world seems to value at a great premium. However you’re defining it, Whitney Houston had it, all of it. But it wasn’t enough. While the details remain a bit sketchy, every report indicates Houston contributed to her own death in some significant way. Houston’s life, fame, and now death has been repeatedly compared to the not-too-distant passing of another pop icon – Michael Jackson (see the noted comparisons here). They got everything they’d ever dreamed of, the types of things which most who live for this world dream of, yet it still wasn’t enough.
A funny thing happens when you get the thing that you most passionately pursue in life – it fails you.
On a much smaller scale than Jackson or Houston, I can relate to this. In fact, I’ve had numerous occasions in my life where I got exactly what I wanted and it didn’t solve all my problems as I thought it might, but only created more. The most vivid for me came in high school.
In the fall of my senior year, I’d hit a crossroads. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to be known. I wasn’t sure who or what I was. Still apparently under the impression that life mimicked early 80s cinema, I assumed the homecoming king and queen were the most popular, most beloved kids in school. So I prayed for it. I thought that an acknowledgement like that from peers would validate my existence. I set my heart on it. And guess what? I got it…….And I can pinpoint that evening as the start of my first episode of serious depression.
What had gone wrong? I, a human like any other, who was created to love and serve the one true God, had tried to fill the God-sized hole that’s existed in my heart ever since Adam and Eve’s fall with something other than Jesus. Since then, God has had to remind me that this doesn’t work at numerous times and in many (often painful) ways.
My guess is that Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, with the world watching, were shocked, confused, and scared with life, wondering what went wrong. They’d gotten everything their hearts’ had ever desired! And yet they imploded. And the secret to be learned here is that true happiness is not found in the “everything” but in the “heart’s desire.”
On a biblical level, we see this same thing happen in the person of Solomon. Solomon was an E! reality show train wreck long before the Kardashians ever came along. Reflecting on a long life of getting everything his heart had desired, having finally come to his senses, look at what he says: “I thought in my heart, ‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.’ But that also proved to be meaningless…..I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:1, 10-11)
Anything that rests as the main desire of your heart is your functional god. It is what you ultimately live for. If it’s not the true God, it’s what the Bible calls an idol. The pursuit of achieving your false idol can derail your entire life. And if you actually get the idol you pursue, you’ll inevitably find it is meaningless, incapable of truly satisfying your natural desire for divine connection. The disappointment of such a false god will punish you unmercifully.
Jesus is the only God that if you get him, he’ll completely satisfy you. And amazingly, if you fail him, he’ll forgive you.
Whitney Houston was so close. She’d become a household name by belting out words that couldn’t have been more true of our Lord, i.e. “I Will Always Love You.” And yet she must not have known what they really meant.
God is the only one who is truly “always” (John 1:1). He is the only one who is truly “love” (1 John 4:16). He is the only one who is truly dedicated to “us” (Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45). And as the only true God, Jesus is the only one worthy of our heart’s pursuit.