Have you ever wondered if there’s more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?
Yes, except those times I look in the mirror and think maybe not. Ahem. Levity aside the question begs an even more interesting question: what would life be like if it were only all about being really, really, ridiculously good looking? If all the world’s a cat walk and all the men and women are merely models? Imagine, if you will, what would life be like if the fashion industry was transposed over all reality. Horrifying thought isn’t it? No room for any other quality except personal attractiveness. The whole of humanity striving to be beautiful with no other aim, goal or desire.
Or let’s pick another scenario where life is all about money. Everyone is like those damn bankers. The only motivation in life is to be rich or die trying. Greed is the only quality worth cultivating. The poor are seen as ‘unholy’ whilst the rich are above and beyond anyone.
Now let’s put our minds to wondering what would happen if all of life was about being happy. Can you imagine how futile that would be? Searching high and low for happiness will only make you unhappy because perfect happiness is an empty promise and unachievable ideal.
What about one closer to home? What if life was all about you? If the only purpose to existence was you and you only? All that mattered was your opinions, your ideas, your ego, your feelings, your wants, your dislikes. If the earth revolved around you then selfishness, pride and self love would soon become the only attributes worth having. There would no room for love for love is inherently selfless. Well, that’s not quite true you would love yourself. I imagine life would be rubbish. I just need to think of the number of times I’ve let myself down to know that dedicated my life to me and me only would be an exercise in futility.
And I could go on. I could define life by possessions, friendships, relationships, sex, family, politics, charity, alcohol, the weekend, chocolate, music, writing, film, games, anything really. And these things aren’t necessarily bad. I’ve been led to believe that some of them are even quite good. But the moment you make life all about that one thing it ceases to become good and becomes…vanity.
“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?”
Ecclesiastes 1 v 2 – 3
If this world in its present state is all there is to life then we live vain lives. I’ve heard ‘vanities of vanities’ translated different ways: ‘meaningless, meaningless’ or ‘frustration, frustration’ but every translation captures something of the sheer URGH-ness of life if this is all we are and the world as we know it is all that is. And as the little mental exercise before this shows there is nothing in this world that offers us what we really want. A man could have all the x he wanted and still not be satisfied.
“All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
Ecclesiates 1 v 7 – 9
These are bleak words; words which if I’m being honest I cannot fully understand because I am young and have suffered little in this world. But even I can grasp a little at what he means. I can grasp the insufficiency of this present life to fulfil, the thorns that are in every good thing and of the many bad things in life. I see vanity in my mistakes, I see it in my sin, I see it in my folly and I look out at the world and see it all again. There is no thing of this world that offers me what I truly desire. Though I may think something has for a time I will always realize its vanity at some point. On a deep and basic level this world is broken.
“Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
John 6 v 35
Talk about contrast! We move from Solomon’s accurate depiction of the vanity of this world to a claim of Jesus where he asserts that he can satisfy us not just for a short time but forever. And this hardly the only such thing Jesus says:
“Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
John 4 v 13 - 14
But what is Jesus saying? What does all the talk about bread and water mean? Well, let’s make it more complicated yet:
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.”
John 6 v 54 – 57
Jesus is talking about his death and resurrection on the cross where he gives his flesh and blood to take the punishment for sin in our place. This is how he can offer us something that truly satisfies: himself. Jesus died so that we might be right with God; wonderfully this is referred to as being alive. Just as sin is death so Jesus is life.
Life is vanity because we live in a world that has turned its back on God. No wonder we find life so frustrating, so painful, so meaningless for we have rebelled against our Creator and seek him not. Yet God in his love has given us a way to be satisfied. We can come to Jesus, see his death on the cross, believe that he took the punishment for our sins, ask for forgiveness and be made alive!
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”
1 John 1 v 9
True satisfaction is only found in God. All others things will perish. All other things are vanity, meaningless and frustration. But in God is a rest, peace, hope, joy, delight, happiness, goodness, love, humility, all good things.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11 v 28 – 30
When I am weak and the futility of life is all too plain to see, when sin burdens me and my failings are clear before me, when I define my life by others things and realize that they provide nothing, when I see that vanity of vanity, all is vanity then I turn to these verses and find comfort. When I am wearied with my brokenness, with fighting sin, with battling unbelief, with coping in this messed up, shook up, crazy little world, I read these verses and take heart. I rest my soul in Jesus because he is my Saviour and King. I rest my soul in Jesus for he alone can save. I rest my soul in Jesus because he alone can satisfy.