James slowly sipped on his late afternoon cup of coffee. Today had been one for the books, that’s for sure. His father called after a 9 a.m. doctor’s appointment to tell him that the treatments had no effect on the tumors. The afternoon started with that call from his wife. Thousands of dollars in fertility treatments later, they still weren’t pregnant. And then, just before the end of the day, James’ company calls an all-employee meeting. Great news! they say. The company’s been acquired! No one’s losing their jobs and everyone’s getting raises and stock options, but the entire operation is moving to Phoenix.
Under a steely exterior, James’ spirit was screaming. “Why is this happening? What possible good can come of all this?”
He bent over, took a deep, painful breath, and headed home to share the news with his already-heartbroken wife.
We’ve all had days like this fictional account. And yet, in spite of what seems to be insurmountable sorrow, somehow, deep in our heart of hearts, we know:
There’s more to this life.
It’s not difficult to hear the questions, they’re all around us:
Why am I here? What is my purpose in life?
Why do bad things happen to good people?
What is the meaning of life?
God in his Word has an answer for that.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. -Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV)
It’s been talked about in countless different ways. Many describe it as a “God-shaped hole,” others call it “intuition,” and still others an unquenchable yearning to understand. Regardless of faith, and even for those of no faith, it’s there. God put it there.
And anyone who tells you that they don’t feel it is lying to you, and to themselves.
Blaise Pascal was a 17th-century mathematician and philosopher who was long thought to have originated the “God-shaped hole” idea. While he never used those words, the concept was there in his book published in 1670:
What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself. – Blaise Pascal, Pensées VII(425)
Finally, the Cambridge Commentary on this verse concludes our discussion beautifully:
The thought expressed is not that of the hope of an immortality, but rather the sense of the Infinite which precedes it, and out of which at last it grows. Man has the sense of an order perfect in its beauty. He has also the sense of a purpose working through the ages from everlasting to everlasting, but “beginning” and “end” are alike hidden from him and he fails to grasp it.
Tomorrow: Good Planning: Jeremiah 29:11