Have you heard about the greyhound races? Those dogs are fast! They run so fast because they’re chasing a mechanical rabbit. A friend told me that one day on a racetrack in Florida an interesting thing happened: the rabbit broke so the dogs caught it!
Now you might think that it would make the dogs happy to finally catch the rabbit after all those races in which they couldn’t quite get a bite out of him. But actually when they caught the mechanical rabbit they didn’t know what to do! They became confused and depressed — they lost their purpose. They never recovered and were ruined as race dogs. (Maybe it’s because mechanical rabbits don’t taste very good!)
What are You Chasing?
The same thing happens when a gambler wins the lottery. For others, depression hits when they finally reach the top of the ladder, win the big game, get their girl, or buy the house with a picket fence. Why?
Because it’s the chase, not the catch, that excites us and helps us to feel that we have purpose and identity in life. That’s what Blaise Pascal, the brilliant Christian philosopher and scientist form France in the 17th Century, said in his classic book, Pensées (French for “thoughts”). He explained that chasing a rabbit is a diversion. We “pass the time” with entertainment, sports, games, shopping, and the like.
Most of our diversions aren’t wrong, but in and of themselves they’re just empty. They’re just ways that we’re “passing time,” distracting ourselves from the unfulfilled longings in our soul. This only guarantees that we’ll never be happy.
The Sole Cause of a Man’s Unhappiness
Pascal concluded, “The sole cause of a person’s unhappiness is…”
Wait. Before I give you Pascal’s answer, how would you complete that sentence? What do you believe is the cause of people’s unhappiness? Probably you can come up with a “Christian” answer for that. But think about it practically and personally…
When you slide into a melancholy mood what triggers that?
Maybe it’s criticism or feeling rejected. Maybe it’s when you compare yourself to someone else and feel that you haven’t achieved as much, or aren’t as attractive, or don’t have as good of a life.
What is the sole cause of a man’s unhappiness? Pascal’s surprising analysis was: “The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his own room” (Pensées #136).
Solitude as Therapy
Stay quietly in your own room. When was the last time you did that? When have you set aside some hours to stop your rabbit chasing and busyness and unplug from the noisy, entertaining world around you?
The Lord says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). When we actually unhook from all our normal responsibilities and relationships we begin to feel unimportant. We’re stripped down to nothing. Then with nothing but our naked self to deal with before God the anxiousness, frustration, pain, or emptiness that we’ve been repressing begins to surface. We may become aware of our mortality.
One glimpse at this inner darkness and most of us retreat to our diversions! We grab something or do something to get excited or to feel important — or at least to be busy and distracted. But if we persist in solitude, seeking Christ with our heart in the midst of whatever discomfort surfaces in the quiet solitude then we will find that indeed the Spirit of Christ is there to heal our brokenness and fill our emptiness.
Devotion to the Lord is what Satisfies
The 23rd Psalm that we love says it so beautifully. “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.” He is the one I want; he is my portion. When we seek the Lord and his kingdom first, submitting to him as he “makes us” lie down in green pastures and leads us beside still waters, then we discover that it’s really true: “He restores my soul” (Psalm 12:1-3, Matthew 6:33).
So we can exclaim with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25). Knowing and serving the Lord Jesus Christ in all that we do — loving him and loving the people around us for his sake — is the only thing that satisfies the deepest desires of our heart and soul.
So why chase a mechanical rabbit?