Everyone- including you– is looking, living, and longing for something to make life matter.
We give that something a variety of different names- purpose, meaning, significance, hope, even God. It doesn’t matter much what we call it; what is critical to recognize is that we are all, without exception, searching desperately for it. No one, however much they may insist, sets out with a conscious aim of wasting the life they’ve been given.
Understand that this reality is no accident; we didn’t invent this search for ourselves. Quite the contrary, in fact. Each of us has been created by God with a natural desire to find ultimate meaning in something beyond ourselves. In a very real way, we’re all born with a “hole in our hearts”- a gap placed there by God Himself, and a gap that He desires to see filled.
Over the course of a lifetime, we try many different things on for size to fill that gap, to “complete” what’s lacking in us. Some of us look to stuff. Others of us look to success, however we define it. Still others of us set our hope in people and relationships. And yet, for all of our trying, none of us can ever seem to “get there,” to escape the nagging sense that there is something still missing.
Most of us, if we’re being honest, respond to this haunting reality with an internal conversation that goes something like this…
“So I’m a little unsatisfied with my life. But if I could just have ________, do ________, achieve ________, experience ________, then things would be different. If I had a different life, then I would be satisfied.”
Tell me you haven’t had that conversation with yourself more than once. I know I have. Problem is, it is rooted in a lie- a deeply deceptive and destructive lie that traps us in a cycle of futility that God never intended for us.
God, in His infinite wisdom and love, anticipated that we would think this way. And in response to it, He gave us a little book in the Bible’s Old Testament called Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is an undeniably difficult book to read, in part because it’s rather depressing, and even more significantly, because it’s a whole lot truer than most of us want to admit.
The primary power of Ecclesiastes- aside from the fact that it is inspired Word of God- is in who wrote it. Solomon, referenced as the “Teacher,” was one of the most impressive men to ever grace our planet. He was a man of nearly unparalleled wealth, power, skill, fame, pleasure, and wisdom, living the life that most in our world dream of living. Bottom line, Solomon had it all– which makes his conclusions about his life, recorded in Ecclesiastes, really uncomfortable, and really necessary.
Solomon tips his conclusion in the book’s opening verse, declaring everything in this world- “everything under the sun”- “meaningless.” His wealth? “Meaningless.” His pleasure? “Meaningless.” His achievements? “Meaningless.” His wisdom? “Meaningless.” Again, I can’t stress enough how seemingly perfect Solomon’s life was in nearly every possible way. And yet, in the face of it all, without hesitation he declares it all “meaningless.” What gives here?
It is important to recognize what Solomon is, and is not, saying to us here. He is not saying that none of what he had, did, achieved, and experienced was enjoyable and meaningful in its time– it almost certainly was. What he is saying, though, is that as quickly as that pleasure and purpose came, it left, and on the back side of every single thing he “auditioned” as ultimate in his life was the same nagging sense of dissatisfaction that with which he began. Like running on a treadmill, Solomon ran and ran- exerting all that he was in the pursuit of that “something” we’re all looking for- only to end up in the exact same place he started.
This is the trap of setting our hope in “everything under the sun”- as legitimately alluring as it may be on the surface, and as temporarily satisfying as it may initially be when we get it, in the end it leaves us as lacking as we were before. That’s what Solomon is attempting- in very strong language- to communicate clearly to us. It isn’t that God’s gifts in this world aren’t good; it’s that they aren’t qualified to be God. The only thing that can bear the weight of being God in your life is God, and the longer we persist in the cycle of “auditioning” temporary things in His place, the deeper our disillusionment with life will become. The solution to what’s broken in us simply cannot be more of what’s already broken in us.
When we magnify anyone or anything “under the sun,” we inevitably get burned. The quickest and easiest way to destroy something or someone- all the while destroying yourself- is to make it bigger than God ever intended it to be. Instead, we must learn to illuminate everything in the light of Jesus, looking to Him alone as our “sun”- the ultimate source of our hope and meaning- and allowing Him to set all things in their proper order. When we recognize God alone as God, it puts things in life in perspective, and enables us to fully and finally find what we’ve been searching for all along.
What are you magnifying in your life? Where has your God initiated search for hope led you? If this answer is anything other than your Creator God, be warned by Ecclesiastes- you’re playing with fire, and if you haven’t been already, you’re going to get burned, probably badly. Be honest with yourself today about what means most, and ask God to stir up your heart with fresh affection for Him. Set Him in His rightful place at the center of your heart and life, and cease the round-and-round “search cycle” of life “under the sun” for good.