All things are full of labor;
Man cannot express it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor the ear filled with hearing.
(Ecclesiastes 1:8)

TO BEINGS MADE FOR FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD, THE WORLD OF TEMPORAL THINGS BY ITSELF CAN NEVER BE WHOLLY SATISFYING. What we find is that the world, even at its best, exhausts us and leaves us longing for Something More. “O God! O God! How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world” (Shakespeare).

It is a frustrating, disappointing task to try to hold forever things that are essentially impermanent. We may spend many of our years looking for lasting fulfillment, but at some point most of us come to see that temporal things simply can’t fill eternal longings. When we try to make them do so, we place upon the things of this world a greater burden than they can bear. “It shall even be as when a hungry man dreams, and look — he eats; but he awakes, and his soul is still empty; or as when a thirsty man dreams, and look — he drinks; but he awakes, and indeed he is faint, and his soul still craves” (Isaiah 29:8).

We would get more real joy from this world if we would pay more attention to the world to come. Our problem is not asking too much of the world, but too little of God. C. S. Lewis said, “Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures . . . We are far too easily pleased.” To seek the greater things of God is to get more from this world, not less. “He sins against this life who slights the next” (Edward Young).

The tiresomeness of temporal life by itself ought to be a clue to the fact that we were meant for more. There are many good things here to enjoy, but if we pretend that this world is all we need, we cheat ourselves. We “satisfy” ourselves with so pitifully little, when our hearts were made for so much greater joy. But even so, God keeps enticing us to be truly refreshed!

“For when we approach God and seek to live according to his purpose, he knows and we know whence we have come: from the restlessness of the world, from the tribulation of human events, from the feeling of discouragement, from the lack of faith, from the failure to hear the message, from the twilight of moral and spiritual exhaustion” (Paul Ciholas).

Gary Henry — +

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