August 23, 2013

The vanity of life has a solution

Solomon, a very wise man, wrote Ecclesiastes, a lament on the vanity of life. He was rich, with great power, unlimited wealth, a huge mansion and many loves. He had done it all, but when reflecting on his life, he said that none of it gave the satisfaction that he wanted. His attempt to explain this mysterious, bewildering, uneasy,  hoping, fearing, dreaming, dreading, waiting thing we call life came up empty, at least empty apart from God.

Paul observed the people of Athens groping for the same answers. They had built an altar to the “unknown God” but still could not explain the mysteries of their lives. Paul said that God did this…

…that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us… (Acts 17:27)

Phillips Brooks writes that Paul’s words to these people are words also to all people. We are restless, always at the edge of something that we cannot quite reach, always on the point of grasping something that eludes us and haunted by something that makes it impossible to settle down into absolute rest.

He says that the answer to our unease is the presence of God. He is Immanuel, God with us. His very presence will not let the human heart find peace in anything less than Himself. Some say we have a God-shaped hole inside us, one that cannot be filled with anything else. Before that empty space is filled, His presence, although not far from us, will not let us be at peace. That sense of always wanting an elusive something cannot be satisfied until we respond to the invitation of the Savior.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. (John 7:37)

All across the centuries, Jesus offers that rest, and offers it still today. Those who stop their pursuit for something to fill that hole in their hearts long enough to think seriously about it might ask, “If He is close to me, separated only by the thin curtain of my blindness, wouldn’t that explain the ache in my life?”

This is that everlasting question, the one Solomon asked and the one that haunts every human being. What else can explain this mystery, the why of life? God gave life to all and remains close to all, yet is unable to give the answers to all because we block those answers.

Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’” (Jeremiah 6:16)

“Not far from each one of us” is the secret of this vague unease of life. Human beings are sinful and weak, all of us. The problem is refusing to acknowledge God and live with Him. His nearness will not let us be at peace in our sin and weakness, but peace, forgiveness, cleansing, and even power can belong to all who open their heart and let Him in. 

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