Satisfied

front porch

One morning this week I was sitting on the front porch. It was early, humid & already about 90 degrees. I was on the phone with a friend, trying to figure out how I was going to relate to & write about this part of Ecclesiastes. I really know nothing about the book, other than Solomon telling us that “everything is meaningless!”

As my friend & I continued talking, he shared a great point – in this book of the Bible, we get to learn from one of the wisest people who ever lived. In 1 Chronicles we learn Solomon had the opportunity to ask the God of the universe for ANYTHING; and of all the things, Solomon chose to ask God for wisdom. Solomon wanted to lead people & lead them well, which he knew would require wisdom – God granted Solomon wisdom & along with it, wealth, abundance, & a rather extraordinary life.

If we were to put these eleven verses in Ecclesiastes into a modern context, I imagine what Solomon experienced is comparable to what many of us think of the “American dream.” After all, we live in a country dominated by immediate gratification & pursuit of pleasure. From a young age, I think many of us are taught that the most important thing in life is to be happy & do whatever we need to do to make us happy.

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For as long as I can remember I absorbed this formula for happiness: graduate high school, make a lot of friends, {make sure you do what everyone else is doing because you don’t want to stand out}. After you graduate high school, go to a good college, get a good job, get married, have kids, work for a number of years, and then retire. Somewhere & somehow in that equation I thought I would “achieve” or experience happiness.

When I think about Solomon, I wonder if he was thinking the same thing: that indulging the richest experiences of his world would leave him feeling satisfied & content. He even stated he was going to “look for the good things in life” (v. 1). He tried to “cheer himself with wine” (v. 3); he built “huge homes” & “planted beautiful vineyards” (v. 5); he collected treasures, hired all sorts of entertainment, & took pleasure in “many beautiful concubines” (v. 8). Solomon became “greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before [him];” he “denied [him]self no pleasures” (v. 9-10).

After experiencing all of this, Solomon looked over all the things he had accomplished & again made his famous observation: “it was all so meaningless – like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere” (v. 11).

breakfast

How many times have you caught yourself striving? Striving to get to some far-off space, where everything is going to be okay? Perhaps you have thoughts of, “oh, if we can just get a house on the beach, we will finally be living our dream!” or, “if I just lose 10 pounds, I will be happy.”

I know I have had those thoughts before. Mine usually sound like: “this Monday I am going to do ___________ (ex. start working out consistently, eat healthy, read the Bible every day).” Do you want to know how successful I have been?

I have failed every single time.

What I am learning though, is that I have not failed because I lack motivation, self-discipline, or commitment. I have failed because I have continued to pursue things of this world that were not intended to be the center of my world.

I am certain the one & only thing that can actually satisfy my longings & desires, fulfill me, & bring me true, whole, happiness is Jesus.

After seeing Solomon & his story through this lens I realize I relate to him more than I thought. Do you?

blondie & flowers

My absolute favorite thing to do on this side of eternity is to have fun, travel, & experience new people & places. In fact, I am about to do just that. In October I leave the country for an 11-month long mission trip. My team will partner with people & organizations around the world to share the love of Jesus. As excited as I am for this experience, I have to continually remind myself that it will never satisfy. As much as I love my life right now, even if it were to stay this way forever, my life will never lead me to a place where I feel content, & that is because my life was not designed to bring me fulfillment; my life was uniquely designed to help fulfill God’s promise to His people – this story of hope, redemption, & the real, actual power of Jesus’ resurrection & defeat of death.

half reflection

I think it is interesting that Solomon uses the word meaningless over & over again to describe how nothing matters. I would like to think that meaninglessness in this context refers to something that does not have eternal value or significance. We tend to overemphasize the things that provide us with temporary & little pleasure because as humans, this is the only perspective we have – a worldly one – & Solomon is reminding us it is meaningless. Doing life with God reminds me that each thing I do has eternal significance, & therefore I ought to adopt an eternal perspective.

One thing I have learned in my 24 years on this earth is that in all things I do, if I take God out of the picture, it is meaningless (thanks, Solomon). I don’t try to do good things just because I feel like “I should.” In fact, if I feel obligated to do something, this is a place where I pause to evaluate why I feel obligated. Rather, I hope that as I live life here on this earth, it will continue to look more & more like Jesus’ life; for what am I doing if I am not doing it for God?

Because of Solomon’s wisdom, he was able to discern that nothing he would experience on this earth would bring lasting satisfaction, except his relationship with God. Thanks to Solomon’s life we have the opportunity to learn from the wisest person who lived – to be satisfied we need to look to Jesus. With Him at the center of my life, I will be satisfied, I will experience contentment, I will never lack, & I know I can always rely on him to protect, provide, & persevere with me through anything.

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IMG_20171028_144847-1Maddie Hungate moved to Pennsylvania 3 years ago & just graduated with her Master’s in Counseling from Eastern University. She enjoys being outside, running, drinking coffee, & hanging out with kids. Her favorite part of being involved at Hope has been being a youth leader for high school. If you’re interested in learning more about the WorldRace & her long term mission trip, you can visit her website: www.maddiehungate.theworldrace.org.

 

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