It may be the most common feature of the bestselling Christian books. “We all want to be great for God and do things that would be impossible without his presence and help. So live a life that’s Greater.” “You are living a life of comfort, ease and complacency, so step out and do something Radical.” “Your life is just passing you by as you sit on the sidelines, so God is calling you to be a follower, Not a Fan.” “You want more Jesus and are bored with what Christianity offers you. You need to rediscover God’s Crazy Love.” It goes on nearly ad infinitum. Some are awful, some are brilliant, but the theme is largely the same: There must be more to life than this! Please tell me there is more to life than this!
Christians live with this deep-rooted dissatisfaction. Authors have written of it, poets have reflected on it, songwriters have sung of it. We read what the Bible calls us to, we feel what our hearts demand of us, then we look at our lives and are disappointed, discontent. There has to be more than this. The Lord must expect more than this.
Vapor. There’s the answer, I’m convinced. Vapor. This was the refuge, the unavoidable reality of The Preacher—of Solomon in the character of The Preacher—in his book of Ecclesiastes. He begins his book and he ends it with the same cry of discontent: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” All of the pursuits of this life are vanity, all of them are vapor, all of them are chasing after the wind, an impossible pursuit that never ends and never brings deep and lasting satisfaction.
Has anyone in all of literary history written words that are more poignant, more unflinchingly realistic, than these?
All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
Has anyone ever written words than ring truer?
We are dissatisfied because we must be dissatisfied. God has put eternity in our hearts (Ecc. 3:11) but we locked ourselves in a temporal world. God created us to find our highest joy and delight in him, but we chose to seek delight in the things he made. We worship the creation rather than the Creator. Even those of us who have been drawn back to the Creator still turn to this side and that, to this idol and that.
We can cry out that we were made for more, that we were meant for more, from now until eternity. We will cry out from now until eternity. We will simply be expressing what Solomon told us so much more pointedly so many years ago. “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” This world cannot deliver all we want from it. This life cannot deliver all the satisfaction we long for. Switchfoot said it well: “Maybe we’ve been living with our eyes half open / Maybe we’re bent and broken / We want more than this world’s got to offer / We were meant to live for so much more.” The most contented Christian will still long for so much more.