I love stories. I spend as much of my time as possible immersed in a book, game, or movie, placing myself in a sort of “safe” reality. In books and movies, I know everything will work out in the end, and no damage will come to me physically. In games, I am in control of the story, and I can change the difficulty, giving me the power to overcome any obstacle. Also, the stakes are low: if I lose, I can just start over and learn from my mistakes—the game doesn’t matter.
So when, like me, you constantly dwell in these false realities (I personally prefer books, but games are more relevant to this discussion), it becomes very easy to let the entertainment mindset bleed over into the real world. I have found myself deciding, without even thinking, to take a break and come back after I’ve thought awhile—except you can’t take a break from life. Sometimes I get frustrated with something in my life, and my mind will tell me it doesn’t have to be that hard: just drop the difficulty and blow the obstacle to smithereens. I have even found myself getting so tired of aspects of life that I want to just give up, “lose,” and start over.
Except you can’t do any of these things with life. Time floats on, whether you want it to or not. You can’t pause the game of life. There are no checkpoints in life. There is no respawn in life. There is only one difficulty setting: hard. And if all of that wasn’t pressure enough, life actually matters. And you only get one shot.
But there is hope, because we are not playing to win. Our object is not the accumulation of wealth or our own personal happiness. No, our object is to do the Lord’s bidding. When you wreck your car and can’t afford a replacement, take heart: Jesus didn’t need a car to do His Father’s bidding. When your house catches fire and all your wealth and pride is devastated, take heart, for your life has not been in vain. When depression strikes, your happiness is destroyed, and you lose your hope for the world, take heart, for you are not here to be happy. You are not losing at life when you are unhappy. You are not losing at life when you can’t get a girl or see how you will fit in the world. Only give up your own desires and plans, obey your General, and you will find purpose, identity, and fulfillment.
Life is not a game.