A couple of nights ago, my wife and I were doing our nightly routine of tucking in, listening to Our Daily Bread, doing some object lessons, reading, and then praying with our daughters (Yes, our ritual is long, but we love it). My oldest was having a problem getting settled down. Initially it was a conversation about peer pressure (it turns out that some of her friends at school last year were very invested in teasing another friend, and my daughter didn’t know what to do when confronted with the possibility of being the friend of a “loser”). Suddenly, the night took a very strange turn, and she started sobbing (She’s almost nine and, yes, the hormones are kicking in, but that’s not the point), and then made this declaration to my wife and me.
Daddy, sometimes I just feel like something is missing in my life.
I was flabbergasted. My nine-year-old daughter is not supposed to be having concerns and feelings like this. More importantly, I am a pastor and evangelist how is it possible that my daughter could feel that kind of emptiness inside? How had I failed?*
I took a breath, said a quick prayer and then, suddenly, I was given the answer. The answer came in very fast flashes. The first thing that came to me was this:
When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.
Life’s ambition occupies my time, Priorities confuse the mind
Happiness one step behind, This inner peace I’ve yet to find
Rivers flow into the sea, yet even the sea is not so full of me
If I’m not blind why can’t I see
That a circle can’t fit where a square should be?
There’s a hole in my heart that can only be filled by you
And this hole in my heart can’t be filled with the things I do…
Yeah… It’s a song by Extreme… So what? Then this…
Read Ecclesiastes to her.
Now, all of a sudden, the pieces fit together. This is what I said to her:
Do you remember the story of King Solomon? He was the wisest king Israel ever had; maybe the wisest king ever! Do you remember that since he asked God for wisdom instead of riches or fame, that God gave him all three? Solomon lived a life that was pleasing to God for a while, but then he started to do things that God had told him not to do. He married foreign wives who worshiped false gods, he set up temples for those false gods to be worshiped in Israel. Eventually, Solomon had done all kinds of different things to see how it felt and to see if they would make him happy. And here’s what he finally said:
Nothing makes sense! Everything is nonsense. I have seen it all–nothing makes sense! What is there to show for all of our hard work here on this earth? People come, and people go, but still the world never changes. The sun comes up, the sun goes down; it hurries right back to where it started from. The wind blows south, the wind blows north; round and round it blows over and over again. All rivers empty into the sea, but it never spills over; one by one the rivers return to their source. All of life is far more boring than words could ever say. Our eyes and our ears are never satisfied with what we see and hear. Everything that happens has happened before; nothing is new, nothing under the sun. Someone might say, “Here is something new!” But it happened before, long before we were born. No one who lived in the past is remembered anymore, and everyone yet to be born will be forgotten too. – Ecclesiastes 1:2-11
When I finished reading (and before I could say what was on my mind to say) my daughter said, “Daddy that’s depressing!” I said, “you’re right. It really is.” And it truly is depressing. Here was the greatest king the world had ever known, wise beyond comparison, and the magnum opus of his life, the summary conclusion of his very existence is that everything we do is pointless. You see, the fact of the matter is that Solomon was dealing with a whole in his life. Something was missing, and he couldn’t figure out what that something was. If you read through Ecclesiastes you see that he tries to fill the whole with this and with that and nothing works. I tried to explain this to my daughter, and I confess a momentary uneasiness when I saw that it was making her worse. Then we got to Chapter 12.
Now, Chapter 12 of Ecclesiastes is one of my very favorites in all of the Bible, but we’ll get to why in a moment. I read to her:
Keep your Creator in mind while you are young! In years to come, you will be burdened down with troubles and say, “I don’t enjoy life anymore.” Someday the light of the sun and the moon and the stars will all seem dim to you. Rain clouds will remain over your head. Your body will grow feeble, your teeth will decay, and your eyesight fail. The noisy grinding of grain will be shut out by your deaf ears, but even the song of a bird will keep you awake. You will be afraid to climb up a hill or walk down a road. Your hair will turn as white as almond blossoms. You will feel lifeless and drag along like an old grasshopper. We each go to our eternal home, and the streets are filled with those who mourn. The silver cord snaps, the golden bowl breaks; the water pitcher is smashed, and the pulley at the well is shattered. So our bodies return to the earth, and the life-giving breath returns to God. Nothing makes sense. I have seen it all–nothing makes sense.
I could see (and was feeling for myself) a lingering uncertainty about the effectiveness of this tact.
I was a wise teacher with much understanding, and I collected a number of proverbs that I had carefully studied. Then I tried to explain these things in the best and most accurate way. Words of wisdom are like the stick a farmer uses to make animals move. These sayings come from God, our only shepherd, and they are like nails that fasten things together. My child, I warn you to stay away from any teachings except these. There is no end to books, and too much study will wear you out.
And then I told her, as I’m telling you who are reading now, that these next verses are the reason I love this chapter so much.
Everything you were taught can be put into a few words: Respect and obey God! This is what life is all about. God will judge everything we do, even what is done in secret, whether good or bad.
You see, Solomon discovered all these thousands of years ago what my daughter was feeling that night. There is a God-shaped hole in each and every one of us. Just as all of creation groans for redemption, our spirits (if not our very bodies) yearn to respect and obey God, even when, and most especially when, we don’t. We may try to fill it the void with social service, carousing, vice, good deeds, study/education, pursuing a dream… you name it. But it is a GOD-SHAPED HOLE!!!
And “a circle can’t fit where a square should be.”
If I don’t land this plane, then this will officially be the most depressing blog post ever, so let me say some things that we can remember and remind ourselves of when we have feelings like my daughter had the other night. If you are a believer in Christ and you have accepted the salvation offered for you, then what I am about to say applies to you. PERIOD! If you are not a believer in Christ, these things don’t apply to you YET, but they absolutely CAN!
- I am a child of God (John 1:12)
- Jesus brought kindness and truth into my life, even though I didn’t deserve it. (John 1:17)
- I am an important part of Christ’s body! (1 Corinthians 12:27)
- I am a NEW CREATION! Everything that I was, every sin I ever committed, every failure I ever made, every mistake I ever made, every harsh thing I ever said is not only gone, it’s DEAD! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
- God is not some high up there in the sky authority figure just waiting to zap a lightning bolt through me, I have DIRECT ACCESS to Him because of and through my High Priest, Jesus. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
- I am completely forgiven of my sins. (Colossians 1:14)
- I can not be condemned anymore. (Romans 8:1-2)
- I am completely exempt from the accusations that Satan will try to hurl at me and at God on my behalf (Romans 8:31-34)
- Nothing, that’s right, NOTHING – not life or death, heaven or hell, angels or demons, nothing that ever was or ever will be – can separate me from God’s love for me! (Romans 8:35-39)
- I no longer have a spirit of fear, I have a spirit of Power, Love and a Sound Mind! (2 Timothy 1:7)
- I am someone who overwhelmingly conquers. (Romans 8:37)
- Because I have believed these truths, I am FREE! (8:32,36)
- There is no such thing as a terrible day. EVERY day can be and, in fact is, a wonderful day! (Psalm 118:24)
- Because of God’s strength through Christ Jesus, I can do ANYTHING! (Philippians 4:13)
The best part is, this list barely scratches the surface of God’s promises for you and for me. The sad and somewhat embarrassing truth is that I often feel just like my daughter felt the other night. It’s at those times that I feel like the God-shaped hole is so big, I forget that it’s God-shaped. But when I remember that I can, because I have direct access to Him, go directly to God and pray these promises over my life, and over the lives of those in my family and in my church and in my extended life. Suddenly, that God-shaped hole starts to get filled up with God, and then – I said to my daughter – I don’t feel like something’s missing anymore.
At least for a while… But that’s another post.
[reminder]Have you ever tried to fill up the hole in your life with something that just didn’t work?[/reminder]
*The reader should follow everything from “more importantly” to “how had I failed” with much sarcasm.