Monday, April 7, 2014

The Despair of An Empty Soul

What the eyes see is better than what the soul desires. This too is futility and a striving after wind. -Ecclesiastes 6.9

Here in Ecclesiastes 6 Solomon has been holding forth on the despair of the rich who are never satisfied with what they possess. What’s the point of it all? If you can’t be satisfied and everything you own is going to fall into someone else’s hands after you die anyway, then “Better the miscarriage than he, for it comes in futility and goes into obscurity…”  

There is a despair that people live with that is the result of seeing the world as an end in and of itself. Like Solomon in his Ecclesiastes days, they seek love, they traverse their worlds in search of beauty, they are successful in their labors, they deny themselves nothing, and yet they live with despair because nothing and no one fills the void in their souls. What they don’t understand is that the problem isn’t a lack of stuff or people to love but a failure of vision.

For these people all there is, is “life under the sun.” (Solomon) For them, all remains meaningless and futile unless or until they see life above the sun: see that the God of creation and life is the be all and end all of our existence, see that creation, love, beauty, and even our labors, are avenues by which we are to commune with God. If we refuse to see the love of God behind and through the love of others, if we cannot see the beauty of God that is shining through a work of art, if we fail to see the glory of God in a magnificent sunset, we are inevitably left empty, dissatisfied, and, ultimately, in despair.

Christians know this intellectually yet often forget it in practice and so live with discontent and the despair of an unbeliever. Their lives are filled with love, beauty, and a roof over their heads and food for their stomachs, but it is not enough, it is never enough, because they too fail to see God in all of these blessings. They do not commune with the God whose life is pulsating through these gifts and, therefore, are using these blessings as ends rather than means to the end: communion with God. 

How often do we experience despair because we are not grateful for what our eyes see but are only focused on what our souls desire? We crave more stuff, more love, more beauty, more of something, anything, please!! Why? What good does it do us if we are not grateful for what we do see, experience, and possess, in this moment? If I cannot commune with God right now through all of these gifts He has already sent me, what difference will ten more gifts make in my life? 

How many times do we rail against our present situations because of something we do not or cannot have, all while ignoring what God has sent us, has arranged for our good? And so we are left feeding on despair, while ignoring all the wonders, beauty, and other expressions of God’s Love and Life that fill our worlds and could fill our souls, if we would but choose to see the Gift Giver whose presence is in, around, and through, all that He has given us.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2014

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