How does a person live life well?
It turns out to be Jewish sages who remind us of five realities that point to the answer:
1. People are designed to be flawed. We’re not fond of that, so we spend a great deal of energy either attempting to overcome our imperfections or hiding them from others. This is not to say we shouldn’t strive to grow, but perfectionism is a temptation to be aware of. (See Ecclesiastes)
2. Our knowledge is therefore flawed and incomplete. We don’t like this much either. Knowledge is control; certitude is comforting. So we seek our own understanding to feel safe and independent. Again, this is not to deny the value of curiosity and intellectual/emotional development. But a little humility keeps us listening, even more faithful. (Ecclesiastes and Job)
3. Life is intended to include the unfair, the unjust, various contradictions, paradoxes and inconsistencies. We really despise this one. It’s what Job was all about. We want to depend on predictable consequences and we expect fairness. However, it’s just not how things work. Healthy people drop dead; kind people get taken advantage of; the greedy prosper. (See poor Job)
Now, if we are able to accept these realities, the next two truths become the gifts in waiting:
4. God wants his people to be happy…Not some kind of self-serving, shallow ‘happy face’ happiness, but deep joy in every circumstance despite the sometimes hard experiences of 1,2, and 3. (See Ecclesiastes again) Happiness is the Divine Imperative.
5. God provides the Way …of ultimate joy through dependence on the love of that other Jewish teacher, Jesus Christ. Indeed, life can certainly be better when we embrace the truths of the first four realities, but the reality of Christ’s love for us invites us into a still deeper hope.
So live life well…and smile.