Disneyland in California has had the slogan of “The Happiest Place on Earth” for years. I’ve never visited Disneyland, but we took our kids to Disney World twice. The first time was when three were in elementary school, and one was in junior high. If you’ve been to a theme park before, you know that you don’t have to wait very long for a child within hearing distance to have a meltdown. On this particular visit whenever we would hear a child losing it around us, I would lean over and whisper in my wife’s ear, This is the happiest place on earth. I thought it was pretty funny, but my wife didn’t seem to agree.
I think about the theological implications of that slogan once in a while. Disney is selling the perfect circumstances to young parents. Imagine you could take your children to a place where everything is carefully curated, presented, and always exactly right. Wouldn’t your children have the best time possible? Well, every screaming child proves that slogan wrong.
Turns out better circumstances don’t make a better me. The Bible tells us this.
The Perfect Environment Didn’t Prevent Sin (Gen 3:6)
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Gen 3:6 (ESV)
Adam and Eve had the best circumstances ever—far better than anything that Disney can offer—and sin still intruded. So if Adam and Even sinned in the Garden of Eden, then there must be something fundamentally wrong with us—not our environment—that produces sin. And that’s exactly what Scripture teaches.
Your Desires Are Insatiable (Prov 27:20; 30:15-16)
Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man. Prov 27:20 (ESV) The leech has two daughters: Give and Give. Three things are never satisfied; four never say, “Enough”: Sheol, the barren womb, the land never satisfied with water, and the fire that never says, “Enough.” Prov 30:15–16 (ESV)
Our lusts can never be fed enough even when we’re only a few years old. So Disneyland with it’s helpful employees and amazing rides and fun shows cannot satisfy the heart of a five year old—or a 35 year old! All of us want more even after we’ve been given more. What does a child say after opening the last Christmas present? “Is that all?” or “Is there any more?” That child might be more honest about his insatiable desires, but I have them too. “Give and Give” are in my heart; they’re in your counselees’ hearts as well.
What’s Inside of Us Is More Important than What’s Around Us (Mk 7:20-23)
And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Mark 7:20, 23 (ESV)
I really want to believe that if my circumstances were different, I would be different. But it’s just not true. What is going on inside of me is more significant than what is happening around me or to me. No circumstance can guarantee my happiness if my heart is wired for more: more lust, more stuff.
This is a very persuasive lie—that better circumstances would make me better. It shows up in the spouse who imagines that being married to a different person would make him different. It is in the heart of the pastor who dreams that a different church would display his Christlikeness so much easier. It is in the heart of the teenager that believes that she would not respond with anger if she had someone else’s parents. It’s a convincing untruth.
It’s easy to believe this about my own heart, but it’s also easy to believe about my counselees. I will hear terrible stories of tragic sin that make me want to rescue this person. And sometimes I think rescue equals fixing their circumstances.Certainly there are some situations that require immediate intervention: abuse, suicidal ideation, potential criminality, etc. In those cases immediate help is getting the oppressed out of those … Continue reading But most often a person’s greatest need is being rescued from their sin. They need help to please Christ in the middle of their circumstances.
The Happiest Place on Earth? Well it can be anywhere that your heart is satisfied with Christ. Daydreaming about changed circumstances won’t lead to happiness. A changed heart can.
As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness. Psalm 17:15 (ESV)
|↑1||Certainly there are some situations that require immediate intervention: abuse, suicidal ideation, potential criminality, etc. In those cases immediate help is getting the oppressed out of those circumstances.|