I was watching a movie last week and its message was sad. I only watched a segment of it and I do not even recall the title of the movie, but it was a depressing theme.
Another “I’ve seen this before” movie
As is typical with many movies today, the husband and wife were struggling in their marriage and the father had a poor relationship with his daughter. The husband one day just gets tired of the rat race, the responsibilities, the conflicts, the issues, and just decides he has had enough.
He checks out.
He quits his job, but not before blackmailing his employer to give him a year’s salary on the way out. He buys an expensive boy-toy car and decides he is just going to do what he wants to do for a change and quit living his life like everyone else wants him to.
His agenda, living life like he thinks he should instead of through the expectations of others.
I don’t even know how the movie ended as I turned it – it was just another display of a guy (and his family for that matter) coming to the all-to-common conclusion that somehow getting what I want, with whom I want, how I want is going to bring this wave of contentment that will finally answer the “great question” – you know the one.
What is finally going to make me happy for a change?
I am writing about this topic today not because I have mastered it and have a word to share. No, rather, I fight it every day. Even though the Gospel is alive within me and the Holy Spirit is always pointing to Jesus, I think the “next best thing” is going to curb those hunger pangs.
Ecclesiastes has a good word for us
I don’t know about you, but Ecclesiastes has been one of those books in Scripture that seems to be avoided in the daily reading plan. So what is this book? Some musings by a grumpy guy where we are allowed into his inner thoughts, only to see his dread and despair?
Quite the opposite. I recall hearing a series of messages on this book and it really removed the scales from my eyes to see how relevant the message of Ecclesiastes is to me, today, right now.
In the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, Solomon makes a statement that is worth pausing and taking a look at:
What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:9-11)
The phrase I want to highlight is “He has put eternity into man’s heart.”
What fills an eternity-sized hole?
Let’s put this in a different light: every one of us is born with this natural longing within us – call it an eternity-sized hole – and it causes every one of us to search.
And this searching can come taking myriad different forms.
I want my day to just go my way.
Why does good always have to happen to that person? Why is my life so hard?
Why does my my job have to be so frustrating?
Why won’t my spouse just listen to me for once?
I deserve this purchase, this trip, this person.
And the list goes on. Notice that none of these things in and of themselves are wrong. We are just looking for more out of them than they are able to give.
Think about this phrase – “God has put eternity in our hearts.”
Filling the Grand Canyon…one grain at a time
Have you been to the Grand Canyon? One of my favorite activities as a kid when visiting was throwing rocks off the edge and listening, listening, listening for the sound of the rock to hit the bottom. It just kept falling and falling and falling.
We have a hard time grasping eternity because everything around us is finite and has a limit, boundaries, a start, and a stop.
Or trying thinking about this. Your job is to fill the Grand Canyon by throwing in grains of sand…one at a time. Now that would seem like eternity.
This is the kind of hole God forms within each of us…an eternal space that has neither breadth, nor width, nor depth, nor height. This is what we all are born with.
And what only can fully occupy a space this immense? Eternity. Or God.
So what do we do? We throw finite objects into an infinite space and wonder why that hole never seems to fill up. Personal agendas, being accepted by others, purchases, activities, it doesn’t matter.
The hole never gets any less deep than when it started. That is discouraging and depressing. And so in an act of picking myself up by my bootstraps (whatever that means), I throw different things or more things into this pit. And…you guessed it, it still does not having any less volume than when you started.
Different…more…different…more. It’s an endless cycle.
This verse in Ecclesiastes provides a great picture for what we do when Jesus is anything less than absolute king in our lives.
Jesus and His “I am” statements
Jesus makes seven statements about Himself in the book of John that seem to answer this most profound musing by Solomon.
- I am the bread of life. (John 6)
- I am the light of the world. (John 8)
- I am the door. (John 10)
- I am the good shepherd. (John 10)
- I am the resurrection and the life. (John 11)
- I am the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14)
- I am the true vine. (John 15)
I’m hungry for (fill in the blank), I want to be enlightened, I need to know the way to go, I want security and someone to care for me, I want more of life, I want purpose, I need help – my strength just does not seem to be enough.
And so we attempt to answer these questions for ourselves, and in doing so, we end up trying to fill up the Grand Canyon with grains of sand, one grain at a time. And it never makes a dent.
Look at the list again. Jesus already answered the questions you have. The feeling of emptiness is natural and what we are all born into. But an eternity-sized hole can only be filled with…eternity. It’s God’s design.
Jesus makes one more statement in the book of John that I saved for last.
Before Abraham was, I am. (John 8)
God has put eternity in our hearts, and so in our yearning to have it filled, Jesus simply says “I am.”
No two other words have this type of power and demand such a response.
This is why we, even as Christians, can find only despair and emptiness when we adopt the “Thanks Jesus, but I want to try this instead.”
Jesus says, “I am.” We say, “No, this is.”
Keep throwing those grains of sand into your own Grand Canyon, and let me know how it goes.
Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.