Written By: Chris Mace
A fresh, early summer morning; fog lingering down the bay; smells from the sea; beauty all around!
Beautiful but empty!
We know how to present cheerful facades when actually feeling empty. We hope nobody will detect our loneliness. “Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when the laughter ends, the grief remains. (Proverbs 14:13) Like a decorative shell, lovely but vacant, we live with a nagging fear that something important and purposeful is missing.
We are susceptible to the illusions that wealth, notoriety, good looks, and power will make us happy. We mistake fame and celebrity for accomplishment. Striving for these alone sets us up for disappointment, fear of failure, and competitiveness which may lead to internal stresses of depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem, addictions, and hopelessness. The Wisdom Books of the Bible ( Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes) acknowledge that life goals can be empty pursuits. Wealth, pleasure, adventure, work, relationships, and intellectual endeavors may be temporarily fulfilling but become meaningless unless put into the context of life’s grander purposes.
King Solomon was drawn into the fantasy that he would be complete and fully satisfied by living the beautiful life with the most and the best, but he eventually realized that “all is vanity” apart from a relationship with God. (Ecclesiastes 12) One of Jobs’ friends, Bildad, suggested that “ to all who forget God” life is like “withering grass.” “The hopes of the godless evaporate. Their confidence hangs by a thread. They are leaning on a spider’s web.” (Job 8:11-15 ) Yet, we too become caught up in the chase for those things that do not satisfy the soul.
Christ warned his followers to “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own,” and then told a parable about a rich man who built more and bigger barns to hold an exceptionally productive crop thinking that he had stored enough away to last him for years. He could “eat, drink and be merry.” “But God said to him, “You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for? Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” (Luke 12:15-22) The problem was not the man’s wealth but his idolatrous attitude and dependence upon it to the exclusion of God.
In contrast, the Psalmist held a clear sense of identity. He had learned the true source of happiness and life’s essence: “ Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:2-5) That man understood his place in the universe. He understood his identity.
Christ came to show us who we are and our need. Crowned with redemption’s forgiveness and healing, the human spirit is directed from selfish excesses to a new life of humility and grace. In 1971, Gloria Gather wrote these lyrics: “Something beautiful, something good/ All my confusion he understood/ All I had to offer him was brokenness and strife/ But he made something beautiful of my life..“
Beautiful and full!