Emptiness

woman on bench

We all know the old saying that “money can’t buy happiness.” Although a few may find some happiness through money, no amount of money in the world can buy or bring anyone complete satisfaction. Ask King Solomon—in his time he was (and would still be considered) the richest person in the world. Some have calculated that he was worth over two trillion U.S. dollars in today’s money. And he was not only the richest, but also the wisest person who ever lived.

“…God appear[ed] unto Solomon, and said unto him, Ask what I shall give thee. And Solomon said unto God, Thou hast shewed great mercy unto David my father, and hast made me to reign in his stead. Now, O Lord God, let thy promise unto David my father be established: for thou hast made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude. Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this thy people, that is so great? And God said to Solomon, Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life; but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself, that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king: Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like” (2 Chronicles 2:7-12).

Did all of this wisdom, riches, wealth, and honor that he received make Solomon happy and satisfied? God recorded his conclusion for us to read: “…vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Solomon was saying that all this world has to offer is actually emptiness. Throughout the book of Ecclesiastes, the Holy Spirit records Solomon’s woes regarding this earthly life. Little by little, he tried everything, and each time he came to the same conclusion—all is vanity or emptiness. Picture a loaf of bread filled with an excessive amount of yeast. It looks full and satisfying—until it is squeezed or sliced. Then it collapses into just a small lump of lifeless, baked dough. It will not satisfy.

Solomon had all the wisdom needed to solve almost any problem. People from all over the known world came just to hear his wisdom. He had untold riches. He lacked nothing—except true happiness and satisfaction. With so much in his favor and at his disposal, why didn’t he have real peace in his heart? Why wasn’t he satisfied? Because he did not keep God first in his life. He therefore tried to find happiness strictly on a human level, living his life on a parallel plane with the animal world.

God created man as a three part being: body, soul, and spirit. When we eliminate God from our lives, then all we are trying to satisfy is the body and soul.

As a result, our spirit remains dissatisfied. So we resort to additional efforts to try to satisfy the body and soul in an attempt to fill that deep longing that is actually from our spirit. Yet, the more we try to quench that longing by feeding and pleasing our body and soul, the worse we feel. As a result, we go through all kinds of physical, mental, and emotional turmoil, since one third of our self is constantly being denied or deprived.

God never designed us to live our lives without Him. We accepted the lie somewhere in our life that God is not necessary, or even that He is nonexistent. As a result, we have ended up out of balance. Compare this to trying to ride a tricycle missing one rear wheel. No matter how much effort we put into keeping those two remaining wheels rolling, we will never be riding in a satisfactory way. Lacking a third wheel will keep holding us back. We can try to make our own third wheel, but it will never be the same as the original one.

broken chained tricycle

Many try to solve this imbalance, this emptiness and its byproducts, by going for professional help. We see doctors, therapists, counselors, psychologists, or psychiatrists, and so on, and then attempt to follow their advice and solutions. We try following multi-step programs. We take prescription drugs. We may gamble or take in pornography. We may resort to smoking, drinking alcohol, or taking illegal drugs to try to satisfy the void in our life, or to cover up the pain that comes from ignoring that longing. We may seek all kinds of earthly pleasure. Yet none of these things, however beneficial they might seem to us, will ever relieve—much less fill—that emptiness deep inside of us. Just as Solomon plainly declared so long ago, it is all vanity. We can never permanently escape the emptiness this way. Sadly, all of our attempts to cover or fill this void within us only create new imbalances in our life. These result in even more efforts to solve the problems that we created in trying to remedy the original problems. We then end up in a cycle we can never free ourselves from.

The only solution to all of this heartache, pain, and madness is to acknowledge that God exists, that He is real. God loves us more than we ever can comprehend. The primary, essential example and evidence of His love is His willing sacrifice of His only Son. Jesus died on the cross so that we could be freed from this constant turmoil in our lives. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever should believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Have you ever heard of a doctor or psychologist or even a close neighbor offering to take all of your problems, as well as all the rest of their patient’s or client’s problems or even the all problems of those in the neighborhood, upon themselves, permanently?

No person on this earth can ever solve the problems that denying God has caused in our life due to sin. This is why we absolutely need Jesus in our life. He was never trapped in these cycles of emptiness that we struggle with continually. He was sinless. Yet He took upon Himself all of our sins, struggles, and problems. He paid the penalty for sin that He didn’t owe so that we won’t have to. Jesus wants to fill that spiritual void in our life. He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

But He can only work in us if we let Him. As long as we continue to go about in our own way and deny Him, or try to replace Him in our life, we will never have real peace and satisfaction. All of our own efforts will not bring true fulfillment in our life—only more emptiness. We may cover it up or try to escape from it, but the emptiness will always be there. The worst part is that this emptiness will not end when we die, but will continue throughout eternity. We are only deceiving ourselves if we think death will be the end of it all.

man sitting on ledge

We only have a very small portion compared to what King Solomon possessed. Yet, in spite of his immense wisdom and grandeur, he discovered that all is vanity or emptiness without God. Why settle for a life that is ultimately empty forever, when we can have eternal satisfaction instead? The point must come in our life when we acknowledge the existence of God. What happens to us in eternity rests on our choice now. Right this moment, Jesus can take away our pain and emptiness, if we will allow Him to. We don’t have to have all of the riches and wisdom in the world to find out that God is the answer. He is here right now. Give your heart over to Him and be free from pursuing vanity.

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Fixing the Unfixable

metrorail station

I recently read an article about the poor state of the Metrorail mass transit system in the Washington, D.C. area. It has had many problems over the years, but more recently, the “Metro” has been plagued with frequent breakdowns, serious safety concerns, and mismanagement.

I can still remember riding the Metro to visit the museums in downtown Washington when I was very young. It was fairly new back then. I was always fascinated, yet fearful, of the whole subway concept—from entering the stations, buying the fare cards, riding in the cars, transferring trains for other track lines, to riding the escalators to exit the stations. While I certainly enjoyed the ease of being able to commute from the heart of the Maryland suburbs to downtown Washington without dealing with the traffic, especially when the traffic was beginning to backup, I never was really thrilled about the whole trip. There are many things I remember being impressed about concerning the Metro system, such as how advanced and high-tech the cars and their controlling systems were for the times in which they were built, and the paper fare cards with their magnetic strip that could be ‘loaded’ with money for the necessary fares. (Actually, they only had a unique number encoded into the strip linked to a temporary account when read by the appropriate machine). I also recall how gloomy the underground stations were and how little there was for a young child like myself to do there.

Yet, in spite of their glamor (if you could call it that) for that era, the Metrorail system had more than their share of problems even back then. For example, after inserting the fare cards, the machine reading them would occasionally not return them. I was always afraid that it would happen to me, which is very alarming for a young child. This was normal if no money was left on the card, but those who had cards with money left on them were stranded at the machine until an attendant arrived who could hopefully resolve the situation.

But the most frequent problem was late arrivals. I remember quite well the many times we had to wait and wait for the next set of cars to arrive so we could return home.

Even with all of the state-of-the-art technology, there was no real notification system of late arrivals back then. We would wander around in circles hoping our train would come soon (this was pre-Internet and cell phones), or we would just stand at the platform and wait. If we were waiting in an underground station, we would often stare down a dark tunnel in hopeful anticipation of possibly seeing the distant lights of our oncoming train. Of course, for a child, it all seemed like much more than an hour in wait time.

Nowadays, electrical fires or collisions and derailment greatly exacerbate the wait times, but possible solutions are few and very costly. Part of the problem is that there is no single authority for the whole system. Each municipality involved has a governing part and each municipality decides what should or should not be in their part of the total budget. Whoever oversees this multi-authority operation has to continually find a balance between everyone involved (which will likely be contradictory) and still please the riders who are paying for all of this. Another part of the problem is the design. While it was state-of-the-art when built, it could not adequately adapt to significant growth, or even simple breakdowns. Rather than looking at other systems that are relatively successful, they look to their own system and try to rearrange various dysfunctional elements in it, in an attempt to make everything operational again.

Sadly, this is the result of man trying to solve his own unfixable physical problems. It is much like you using yourself as a ladder or step stool to attempt to climb over a wall; the more you try, the less effective you become.

Actually, we do this all of the time with our moral and spiritual problems. We try to solve something intangible with something tangible and wonder why we can’t arrive at a solution. Only God can solve our moral and spiritual problems. The more we leave God out of our lives, the more He leaves us to solve our problems by ourselves. God never created us to function totally on our own. He did not set the world in motion like a top, and then sit back watching it gradually spin down to a standstill.

Many people feel that they are as independent as an island in the middle of an ocean. They consider God to be a crutch, something only the poor and feeble need. They go to great lengths to succeed in this world. They do everything they can to avoid God and anything related to Him. A few will reach the apex of success, at least according to their own standard, becoming billionaires (and now even trillionaires); though, in the end, their end, they will face the same eternity as the poorest of the poor will face, an eternity spent either with God or without Him.

God created us to love Him. He gave us a free will so that the choice to love Him would be solely of our own doing, not as a robot whose only actions are what have been previously programmed.

God fully proved it by the giving up of His son, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice for all of us—past, present and future. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). God’s Son, from the time He was conceived in the womb to the time He died, was innocent and without any sin. Yet He willingly gave up His life to die as if He was a guilty criminal for all of us. He paid a debt He never owed for everyone, from the first person created to the person who is yet to be born.

God wants us to seek Him for the solution to our problems. While He is not much concerned with fixing the Metrorail or similar problems, He is very concerned about fixing us, and setting us on the right path. When we say we have no need of God or His Son, we are throwing away the opportunity to have a life with Him—both for now and for all eternity. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). An eternity without God is an eternity with Satan in Hell. There is no third option or middle road. The more we push God out of our lives, the more He will let us try to solve our problems without Him, ultimately to no avail. He will let us reach that point where we either give up, handing our life and efforts over to Him, or else we will never give up and will be lost eternally, along with Satan, who doesn’t care about us and has no love for anyone or anything but himself. Don’t push God out and try to live for eternity without Him. It will never work.

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