I’m going to start with an analogy that might help you out. For me, when I see that my gas gauge is full, there is just something ecstatic about it. I don’t know if it’s just me, but in that trivial moment I experience so-called fulfillment. But the reality is that I won’t see that gauge remain on full. It has to constantly be refueled and continues to be a dreadful cycle. So when the tank is full, it feels great, but only for a split second or two—in light of eternity. Our culture feeds off this idea. We jam temporary things in the gas tank and think they will make the engine run. They might for a little while, but they cannot possibly fill the longing gap in our hearts and soon begin to fade. Matt Chandler explained in his sermon that some temporary experiences do serve as high watermarks. He explained that a wedding might be a high watermark, or the miraculous moment when a child enters a parent’s world. For me, a high watermark is considered my Starbucks fix as I am sitting here typing. Just kidding (kind of). These are blessings from God, but they aren’t the answer themselves. And if I am straight, they will fade.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says: He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
The reality is the heart gets bored quickly. I mean, just look at technology and the craving for newer and better phones, the nicest brand car, better clothes, material possessions—you name it. It’s a cycle we get sucked into in a society like ours today. Our culture shapes us to walk in discontentment. Christmas time is used as a platform to deliver these messages to us. Messages like “You need more” or “You just need ____ and you’ll be fulfilled”. The last time I checked, this solution NEVER works. With this aim for temporary things, covetous motives arise in our hearts. We envy, lust, and enrage. We begin to compare to what others have that we want. Luke 12:15 warns us when it says: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Our treasure is in heaven; not here on earth. So why do we keep chasing after fleeting things? Essentially, the whole book of Ecclesiastes amounts to the meaninglessness of chasing the wind in this life. I fall into it and even continue to chase the same things I already know cannot satisfy me. It’s the whole “already but not yet” state we are living in. For believers, we know our citizenship awaits us in heaven (Philippians 3:20). But for those of you reading that aren’t believers in Christ, you might be wondering why there is always an urge for more of this world. C.S Lewis concluded: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” The reality is that you and I will never arrive at being satisfied until we see that nothing will satisfy. Let me flesh it out in accordance to my own life. I remember growing up and looking forward to new stages in life or setting certain goals I wanted to accomplish for satisfaction. I played basketball and was pretty decent. I thought, “if only I make this amount of points or assists per game, I will be satisfied”. I told myself I needed to get better, but I never thought I was good enough, so eventually, I quit because I got too burnt out from that perfectionistic mentality. What does that tell you? Then came high school and grades. I figured, if only I get all A’s, I will be worthy. Once that happened, I wasn’t satisfied. Then the famous benchmark—getting a driver’s license and being freed up to get away from the house whenever I can since I am so invincible at 16. Once I got a car and was able to drive, nothing clicked. Before I moved to Texas, I thought “when I get down south to Texas, my life is going to be a lot better”. Recently, I’ve struggled with the idea that if only I am pursued by a boy and find myself in a relationship, this loneliness and burden will be lifted. Ecclesiastes 1:8 would say it like this: “The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing.” The point here is that none of these things can satisfy, yet we will always be searching horizontally in this world as we reach different seasons—until we see that our only satisfaction and identity comes through Jesus, the Savior that was sent into the world.
The only One that bridges this eternal gap is Jesus. The only One who realigns shalom to where it once was is Jesus because that’s how it was from the beginning and to the end (John 1:1-5). Shalom simply means perfect peace. From the beginning, God planned to redeem the fall—He planned to redeem a severed shalom. We celebrate Christmas for this very reason– Jesus, the baby being born to fill the gap—Jesus, the eternal One. And we await His return to completely fill that gap to where there will be no more longing hearts, as we will one day be in His presence. We can’t sustain or fill ourselves with shalom. That is completed outside of our own righteousness or temporal “shaloms” we might choose to fulfill us. Jesus accomplished it when He entered the world. The things that don’t accomplish peace are the job we want, money, the school we get into, the person we marry, our achievements, families, type of car we drive, worldly beauty, weight on the scale. You get the point. Nothing outside of Jesus. Don’t take this the wrong way though because I think these things are for us to enjoy; however, they shouldn’t be sought after in place of Christ or even next to Christ. They also shouldn’t be used to put our hope in. Jesus is above all things and is our only hope.
I was flipping through Romans and found a hopeful text in response to this longing we all have in this “already not yet” state. Romans 8:22-25: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoptions as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” One day we will no longer face this constant tension between what culture says will satisfy and what truly satisfies.
Anything we chase that isn’t Jesus is robbing us of fullness of life. God will send both joy and sorrow for us to become transformed to the image of Jesus. He’s shown me that anything I have held onto tighter than Him, will always keep me longing for more and will never fill the gap. Tullian Tchividjian says in his book, Glorious Ruin that ”God is more concerned with our knowing Him than He is in our half-hearted pleasures of comfort, ambition, and success. SO much so that he often allows pain and suffering into our lives to clear the clutter of mute, deaf, and unworthy idols that can never deliver their promises.” This is His grace to take these idols out of our hands so that we might walk in freedom. The gospel doesn’t merely save sinners, but frees us up into glad submission because we are freed from ourselves. It gives us a new identity in Christ and allows us to say that everything we need, we already possess because of Jesus. He imputed his righteousness onto us and our standing is firmly anchored in His work on the cross. It is my hope that we as Christians don’t buy into this lie that we need anything outside of Jesus. He has obtained it for us. Let us rest assured in this truth and live with open hands, not gripping tightly to things of this world.