True Satisfaction

A couple weeks ago, the Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals to win Super Bowl LVI. Winning the championship of America’s most popular and prosperous sport is an important athletic accomplishment, yet what is the actual significance of winning a championship football game? When the game ends and the Lombardi trophy is handed out, what’s next?

A few months after leading the New England Patriots to their third Super Bowl victory, quarterback Tom Brady said this in a 60 Minutes interview: “Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there’s something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, ‘Hey man, this is what it is.’ I reached my goal, my dream, my life. But, I think, it’s gotta be more than this. I mean, this can’t be what it’s all cracked up to be.” Other football players have discovered that winning the big game is “not all that it is cracked up to be.” After the Dallas Cowboys won the Super Bowl in 1993, defensive tackle Leon Lett sat by himself in the locker room and asked a reporter, “Ok, so who do we get to play next.”

It seems many Super Bowl winners learn the same lesson others have after seemingly significant achievements—when they reach the top of the ladder of success, they often find it is leaning against the wrong wall. Athletic accomplishments provide thrills and adrenaline rushes, but seldom bring lasting fulfillment. Those who excel in academic or artistic endeavors also find that the accolades and awards produce little long-term satisfaction. Likewise, financial success often seems to leave a sense of emptiness. Actress Terri Garr once said, “I have learned that money can buy happiness…for about 15 minutes.”

I believe there are two primary reasons why success fails to satisfy. First, it tends to be very temporary. The vast majority of Americans know the Rams won the Super Bowl a few Sundays ago, but most folks can’t tell you who won the game last year. I suspect only a small percentage of NFL fans can name the Super Bowl winner from five years ago without Googling for the answer. The relevance and satisfaction of past successes usually fades rather quickly.

Second, our mortality tends to cast a shadow over all our accomplishments. Being aware that death is our inevitable end has a way of dampening our satisfaction in even our most notable achievements. As Charles Swindoll said, “If every card you play is going to get trumped, it really doesn’t make much difference how you play your hand.” Many who taste the sourness of success conclude that the source of real happiness is in relationships, yet here is where death’s pain is felt most acutely. Even our most treasured relationships with family and friends will only last until “death do us part.” That is why one distraught celebrity asked, “Why does everyone I love have to die.”

The reality is that we as human beings are not intended to find true happiness apart from our Creator. It is only a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ that keeps every road we travel from being a dead end. True satisfaction comes when we know our accomplishments are in the context of what the Lord has called us to do. Lasting fulfillment only comes when we transcend this life and experience eternal life in God’s kingdom. “Lord, you make known to me the path of life, in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11) That friends, is true satisfaction.
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Dan Erickson