Rat Race – The Search for Satisfaction

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I have been convicted.

While sitting in bible study, Betsy Corning, writer of Entrusted with A Child’s Heart shared a segment on “Wishing life Away.”

In this case, the context was specific to motherhood. With the monotony and sometimes isolation of caring for babies fulltime, it’s easy to take for granted what you have right in front of you, easy to forget that each and every day is vital and important as God shapes those little blessings into the people they are and will be.

It’s incredibly tempting to fall into the trap of once this happens or this happens or this happens, something will be better, or perhaps easier.

When they can crawl…once they feed themselves…after they start walking…as they start playing together…etc, etc, etc.

Please don’t mistake my seemingly lack of gratitude. I know there are thousands of women out there right now who would do anything to get pregnant, and I know I am beyond blessed. But, I still catch myself wishing life away.

This is because “What’s coming next?” is always on my mind, looking ahead, preparing for the future, gearing up for what’s to come. What will be that next thing or event to drive me forward?

Of course this doesn’t just creep into the area of motherhood, but ALL areas of our lives.

When I get my driver’s license…when I turn 18…when I make more money…when I get married…when I get a new car…when I go on that vacation…when I lose 10 pounds…when I have children…when when when WHEN WHEN WHEN WHEN

It’s that moment, or event, or season, or thing and everything falls into place, right?


But it was supposed to! And maybe it does…for a second. But it’s only a temporary satisfaction that leaves us wanting more, asking ourselves, “Now what?”

As an English teacher, I have to share a quotation from one of my favorite young adult novels, The Outsiders.

‘”Rat race is a perfect name for it,” she said. “We’re always going and going and going, and never asking where. Did you ever hear of having more than what you wanted? So that you couldn’t want anything else and then started looking for something else to want? It seems like we’re always searching for something to satisfy us, and never finding it”’ (Hinton 38).

I want to see the array of cars and blocks and books and Tupperware – oh thank you Lord for Tupperware – all over my once-clean house and feel content.

I want to watch my kids giggle and play and allow myself to feel like I’m doing a decent job.

I want to leave the dirty dishes and messy kitchen to sit with my husband, enjoy the evening, and know it can wait.

I want to look at the bottle of pills on the counter and actually accept the fact that it doesn’t make me less of a person.

I want to glimpse in the mirror without makeup or combed hair and believe God made me in His image, and He made me beautiful.

I want to sit with today, experience it as it is, and feel satisfied. I want it all to be enough. It should be enough.

But like Cherry says, I’m on a constant search for satisfaction. It’s been a lifelong pursuit and struggle that swallows me up as I strive for order and predictability and sadly, control.

Go to school, get good grades, find a job, fall in love, throw a wedding, have a baby. Or two. J

Those are not bad things. In fact, those are wonderful things. But they’re not something you do because you’re looking for what’s next, ready to check something else off the list.

This continuous search for “having/feeling/being enough” traps me in the impossible realm of perfectionism, when in fact I know I am not perfect and will never be.

As a Christian, I want to think I hold my standards high to be more like Christ, and I hope sometimes that is the reason. But I know more often than not it’s to feel good and be “good.” Because if you do good, feel good and be good, that has to be the formula for satisfaction, right?

Wrong again.

Can you relate? Have you experienced the endless cycle of dissatisfaction? Through an eating disorder, various medications, hospitalization, and continuous anxiety and depression, I know firsthand you can have the most abundant and blessed life on paper, and still feel empty on the inside. I am fortunate to have faith in Christ where at least I know I can be made complete, that’s there’s wholeness, and a perfect love that exists. But for those without that hope, I am sad.

Yes, it is sad knowing there are so many people out there with this same problem, on a constant search for satisfaction. Then it’s truly devastating when you recognize what first world problems these really are, to have too much and yet still not have enough, when there are people hurting, starving, experiencing war and persecution daily.

I want to share this message with every young person out there so they can start learning now. Get rid of your imaginary checklist. There is no magic pill; there is no special formula. It doesn’t matter how many A’s you get, how much scholarship money you’re awarded, how “good” you do at ANYTHING if you can’t find the satisfaction and contentment somewhere in yourself, just as you are, as an incomplete and imperfect human being that can never fully be filled without something (or Someone) greater.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t look ahead. Puh-leeze. I’m a type-A planner, people! Of course I like to plan. And I’m not saying you can’t look forward to things either. There are wonderful things “coming next,” such as spring after the long winter, birthdays, wedding, babies, and this upcoming Easter.

I’m also not saying you shouldn’t strive to succeed, to work hard and excel in your endeavors. Hard work is important. Just don’t buy into the lie that once the “what’s coming next” actually happens– whatever it may be – that all will be well.

So I guess the message is this – don’t be surprised if you get to the top and find it’s not enough.

Getting to the Top

I’m currently running the rat race, but I’m ready to call it quits, man. Stop the endless search of what’s next or how can I do or be more to feel satisfied. It’s time to bask in some contentment, allow myself to feel that maybe life as is is enough. And maybe, just maybe, one day I’ll feel like I’m enough, worthy of who I was created to be.

About the Author

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Rachel Madden is a teacher, wife and mother of twins. She experienced a bout with bulimia in college and was later diagnosed with anxiety and depression. She started a blog in 2014 at crazyMADDENINGworld.com to share her story about motherhood and living a passionate, Christian life with mental illness.