Someone recently sent me an article on a Christian website about Brad Pitt’s inner sadness, or, what I’d be inclined to call his existential “ache.” Turns out the article was from 2008 and it’s quoting an interview that took place in 1999. Who knows what Pitt might say now, but it’s still compelling today to read what he said then …
“You’re talking to a guy,” says Brad Pitt, “who’s always had this kind of congenital sadness. I don’t know where it came from. I don’t know what it is. … I see it in so many people. I just always had so many questions growing up; why this, why the state of the world, why does God want this? Congenital sadness. It always came up, for no reason. I don’t know what it is.”
Turns out the article uses Brad Pitt as a kind of “hook” to get readers to consider giving their lives to Jesus.
I couldn’t agree more that this “ache” Brad Pitt feels is a longing for the Infinite, an emptiness only God can fill. But the article left a bad taste in my mouth by concluding, “The moment you repent of your sins and accept Christ as your Savior, the void within is filled by God. The emptiness is gone….”
[tweetthis]This ache is a longing for the Infinite, an emptiness only God can fill. – @cwestTOB[/tweetthis]
Giving someone the impression that giving your life to Jesus suddenly removes that existential “ache” is a terrible disservice to that person … and to Jesus! “Seek and you shall find” (Mt 7:7). This is the essence of the Christian life: it’s a constant ongoing search, driven by a mad desire and unquenchable thirst that haunts us till the day we die. Christianity does not supply ready-made answers to life’s questions, and it certainly doesn’t erase the yearning we feel inside. Rather, it awakens that yearning and increases it … unto folly, unto “madness” … unto infinity …
These lyrics from the song “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2 used to ruffle my feathers when I was a “new” Christian:
You broke the bonds and you loosed the chains
Carried the cross of my shame, all my shame
You know I believe it
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
Isn’t Jesus the answer to all our longings? Yes, he is. But he doesn’t promise the fulfillment of those longings until we’ve reached the other side.
I don’t know about you, but I’m looking for an ecstasy and bliss that lasts forever. I’m looking for an eternal homeland in which evil is no more, all wrongs are set right, every injustice is addressed, all pain and sorrow and suffering are redeemed, and every tear is wiped from our eyes. I look around at the world we live in today, not to mention the junk that remains in my own heart, and, I’m with Bono – it is abundantly clear that I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.
If that existential “ache” is meant to lead us to the Infinite, then, in this life, we will be ever seeking and never satisfied, as St. John Paul II put it (see TOB 112:4). Giving our lives to Jesus doesn’t take that ache away. It only gives us hope that it will be satisfied. And that hope does not disappoint (see Rom 5:5).
That’s the message we have to share with Brad Pitt and everyone else: hope that there is an Infinite Love that corresponds to our infinite sadness. We can glimpse it even now, but we won’t know it fully until we embrace that Love face-to-face.
Photo by Thomas Peter Schulzen, Creative Commons.