"Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun." Ecclesiastes 2:11 ESV
I’m not much for jigsaw puzzles, but I know that you need all the pieces to enjoy a satisfying outcome. In many ways, life is like a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. We spend our days putting it together, hoping to create something meaningful out of all the scattered pieces. But when we can’t find the strategic pieces that complete the picture of some challenging situation in life, we face unsettling disappointment at best, and, at worst, despair.
Honest philosophers have been telling us for centuries that life can be confusing, lonely, meaningless, and empty. Disappointment and despair are to be expected as normal by-products of our existence. The remedies proposed range from the passive resignation of a life stuck in the byword whatever to engagement in experiences that provide the adrenaline rush of temporary excitement. Even the writer of Ecclesiastes searched the depths of wisdom, pleasure, wealth, and work to find meaning and satisfaction but came up disillusioned. His conclusion is painstakingly honest: “Behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind” (Eccl. 2:11 ESV).
Let’s face it; there have been times when we’ve wondered why life is not more rewarding. Even our best experiences rarely leave much of lasting value, and often the anticipation is more fulfilling than the experience itself. We “channel surf” life, looking—hoping—for something to catch our attention, only to end up bored, jaded, and flat. And when life gets in our face, we are shocked at how brutal and unconsoling it can be. In our quiet moments, we feel stalked by a sense of emptiness and fear.
We wonder, “Why? What’s missing?”
Has anyone noticed that the one thing the philosophers, the meaning-searcher in Ecclesiastes, and many of us have in common is that God has been removed as the preeminent center of our existence? He is the missing piece; the piece we so desperately need in order to complete the picture of life.
Even those of us who are connected to God through redemption, often live our lives as though He isn’t particularly relevant to our everyday occasions and encounters. We are proficient at maintaining the level of religious activity we deem appropriate, but God is hardly the center of our lives.
When God is banished from human experience or relegated to the religious margins of our lives, left only to serve us on an “on-call” basis, we become functionally alone. And in that aloneness, emptiness and vulnerability become more than philosophical theory—they are naked reality.
The good news is, while we have life and breath, God will not cease to pursue a rewarding, deepening intimacy with us. He is not content to leave us alone. His unceasing, unconditional love for each of us compels Him. He wants to meet us at the intersection of every dream, every desire, every choice, and every thought, and He urges us to turn toward Him and actualize the finished work of His Son, the gift of the Spirit, and the resource of His Word.
God welcomes us to begin a pilgrimage that puts our backs toward the aloneness in our souls and turns our faces toward the spectacular glow of intimacy with Him, toward life the way it was meant to be. Once we put Him in the right place, He begins to bring all the scattered pieces together to complete the picture of our lives—and it’s a good picture when He is the strategic piece!
- Do you feel as if your life is missing something? If so, what? Have you ever considered that you might be lacking intimacy with God?
- Read Ecclesiastes 2:10-11. Can you identify with this experience? If so, think of some things you strive for that are nothing more than “vanity.” Confess the vain things that come to mind, and commit to strive after intimacy with God instead. Did you have an experience like this in the past? What happened?
- How do you feel when you realize that God pursues you for a deeper, richer relationship with Him? Think of a time when this was evident in your life. If you are interested in reclaiming that (or initiating it), read Revelation 3:14-20. Then take it personally!