“All the things I really like to do are illegal, immoral, or fattening.” This phrase was first used by an early 20th century American journalist and has since become entrenched in modern society as a realistic appraisal of life — chocolate cake is delicious, celery less so — being patient is tedious and instant gratification is fun.
We know that God’s word is full of good advice, but is it like celery which we have to eat to stay healthy or is it actually what will bring us ultimate joy and fulfilment — not something we have to do but something that is meant to bring us joy?
Until Jesus returns life in this fallen world will be imperfect, but God desires for us to still have joy and if we look for it in the right places we will find it and be able to live not just an upright life but a joyous one.
The book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible focusses on the search for the meaning of life and how without God life has no purpose.
Throughout the book, King Solomon seems to live out a trial and error approach to discovering what will bring him pleasure and provide meaning for life. He uses wine, sex, building projects, and status in his quest to fulfil himself.
As king he had the greatest opportunity to try many things and the largest amounts of wealth, status, power, and anything else he wanted, but he still did not find it fulfilling.
The Taj Mahal — our problem
Thinking about this topic called the Taj Mahal to mind. As one of the modern Seven Wonders of the World, people travel from all over the world to visit it. It has beautiful architecture and is breath-taking to look at — if you did not know what it was built for you would probably expect it to be a palace for Indian royalty with an (unofficial) Maharaja, his family and hundreds of servants, bringing the place to life or a national museum full of the most beautiful pieces of art and history the culture wants to display, but that is not what it is. The Taj Mahal was built as a tomb and contains dead royalty. In this way the Taj Mahal is similar to sin, at first sin looks enticing and inviting, but once you get involved with it you realise that it is actually leading you towards death.
When we try and centre our lives around bad things such as drugs, drunkenness, or extramarital sex — or even good things such as a successful career, a loving family, or intelligence, it masks the problem that we all have. The problem? We need something to fill the hole inside of us. There is only one person who can fill that hole because it is in fact a God-shaped hole.
This is a conclusion that Solomon comes to. It is also brought out in many other parts of the Bible such as in Psalm chapter 16, verses 5–8.
You, Lord, are all I have, and you give me all I need; my future is in your hands. How wonderful are your gifts to me; how good they are! I praise the Lord, because he guides me, and in the night my conscience warns me. I am always aware of the Lord's presence; he is near, and nothing can shake me.
God’s purpose for us
God has made us to find our ultimate purpose, joy, and satisfaction in him and he has also given us many other good gifts to enjoy — he made all the fruit in the Garden of Eden “pleasing to the eye and good to eat.” (Genesis chapter 3, verse 6.) In the law he gave commands to include rest and celebrations in life. He designed a world full of wonder and beauty and made people creative, funny, interesting, curious, and relational. He made us able to eat and enjoy a wide variety of food and drinks, and he gave us the whole of creation to cultivate and play in.
Problems happen when we take God’s good gifts and try to use them as a substitute for a relationship with God — that is like trying to substitute a chocolate cake for your spouse in your relationship with them — it just won’t work and it will leave you feeling empty and alone. Like Solomon, we can be tempted to try and find meaning in things other than God. It may not be drugs or drunkenness, but it could be our families, our friends, or our church activities. If we try and centre our lives on these things we will, like Solomon, feel restless and unfulfilled or even worse think we are fulfilled while growing distant from the one who can truly meet our needs and lead us into true life.
As Christians there is another reason why we must focus on keeping God at the centre of our lives — we are representatives for him — lights shining in the darkness. We cannot properly shine our light if we are not properly plugged in to the power source — God. The peace and meaningfulness with which we live our lives will draw others to us to answer the question that nags every person — what is the meaning to life?
Jessica McPherson lives with her best friend and husband, Eoin, and their family of rescue animals in Christchurch. She loves reading, writing, photography and scrapbooking but most of all sharing God’s love and truth with a hurting world. Jessica is particularly passionate about encouraging children and building them up in gospel truth.
Jessica McPherson’s previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jessica-mcpherson.html