They call it the “Paris Syndrome”. It is an odd malady that can cause shortness of breath, racing heartbeats and nausea, often requiring a hospital stay. It can progress into emotional disorientation, unpredictable delusions and a lifetime of anti-anxiety medications or psychiatric counseling.
These terrifying things all result from simply traveling overseas, and can occur from just one trip. So, is this caused by a virus? A parasite swimming in unfiltered water? The aftereffects of an improperly cooked piece of shellfish?
No, Paris Syndrome arises from profound disappointment.
Researchers have discovered that some people—mostly Japanese tourists — who travel to Paris, France for vacation are so disappointed at what they find that it literally makes them sick and borderline crazy. Apparently, Japanese culture has for years presented a highly romanticized view of all things Paris. The Paris that captures the Japanese imagination is sparklingly clean and aglow with wonder. All the people there are smiling, kind, welcoming and in on the conspiracy to help every person discover the love of their life. Couples wile away hours in open-air French cafes sipping wine or coffee, before they slip away to walk along the Seine in the moonlight.
These tourists save for years to experience the Paris of their dreams. But the reality they find is drastically different. Paris is an international mega-city, marked by freeways and smog, and bustling millions of residents. The postcard picture scenes are shadowed by urban sprawl and neighborhoods that never glow.. It is frighteningly expensive and Parisians are, as a rule, aggressively rude to tourists, especially those who do not speak French. Nobody seems particularly concerned with romance.
The discord between the tourists’ expectations of Paris and its reality is stark. Thus the disappointment, and the disturbing physical and emotional symptoms.
We don’t live in Japan, but we are surrounded every day by people looking for their Paris dream. It may look like romance or a relationship or an accomplishment or a possession or an experience or a job. In their mind, they think, “If I just had ________________, everything would be beautiful, and my heart would be satisfied.” But when they finally acquire it or have it for a while, it’s just not nearly as satisfying as they expected it to be.
So, what can Jesus’ people like you and me offer people who are often disappointed with life, disoriented and struggling to find their way? We have the gospel of Jesus. Not just a list of beliefs, but the fullness of the life and promises in Christ. Jesus cuts to the core of every person’s longings. He promises “whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (Jn. 6:35). He assured that those burdened would “find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:29), those beset by Satan’s life-draining wiles would instead have “abundant life” (Jn. 10:10), and all who trust Him would “pass from death to life” (Jn. 5:24)
It gets even better. The Lord promises,“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9) And “not one word of all the good promises the Lord has made….has failed.” (Josh 21:45) Jesus is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). He is utterly dependable and has, for millennia, proven faithful to all who have trusted Him.
In other words, Jesus never disappoints. When we stand in His grace, we “exult in hope of the glory of God…and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts.” (Rom. 5:5) The realities of Jesus always match and exceed the expectations or trust we place in Him.
Everything in this life will ultimately disappoint us. Jesus never will. He is better than Paris and every other enticing promise we’re drawn to believe. Jesus satisfies utterly, deeply, sufficiently and joyfully.
Jesus is simply better. Jesus is always enough. You need that good news for your journey today—and so does somebody you know. Invite them to join you on the Way with Jesus.