Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man. (Proverbs 27:20, ESV)
I was thinking about a conversation in the movie based on the book Girl with a Pearl Earring about the life of Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer and a fictionalized story around his famous work. It was a brief discussion between Vermeer and the village baker. It reminded me of the Scripture above and went something like this (were it in verse):
“The people know not
what they want,”
the corner baker said.
“You paint them
I bake them
loaves of bread.”
I then got to thinking:
The singer soothes
savage breast, they say,
calms the din.
But as Sheol, Abaddon
is man bereft within.
Ecclesiastes 1:8 reveals a similar sentiment: “all things are wearisome [labor-intensive], more than one can describe; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear content with hearing.”
So it’s clear, more is not always merrier–nor is it the answer to the kind of emptiness that exists even in abundance.
Indeed, Ecclesiastes 1:8 implies that this kind of abundance is more work than wonder, more strife than satisfaction.
But proof of this kind of quest, and the inevitable let down when completed, is all around.
For never has the world been so filled with stuff, yet never so empty, it seems, of heart and soul–which are the recesses of man that hold and treasure the real riches that gold and silver and all else that shines only promise.
However, it does seem that part of the human condition is to be dissatisfied, wanting, lacking something–food, maybe, or art, or music, or poetry–on purpose, by design, if you will. (Whereas devils, in their sorry Sheol and Abaddon, just crave other miserable company.)
I mean, how many people do you know who are completely satisfied with what they have and where they find themselves in life–even if it’s a very good life by all standards?
I am referring to the kind of need that no matter our situation constantly dangles in front of us.
I’ve wondered why this is.
Aside from the usual suspects, i.e., temptation (in the land of the illusive “greener grass”) and the powerful allure manufactured by the advertising industry to get us to purchase shiny new stuff (and replace, upgrade, and/or buy more when we lose interest–or heart) I think we feel a kind of incompleteness because there is that in man that craves lasting satisfaction, the kind that the temporary array of wordly goods only hints at, the kind that is always “just beyond” this or that short-lived fix.
(I mean, for Pete’s sake, even certain television ads for candy bars involve sexy young things moving their cosmetically-enhanced mouths in slow motion to seductive background music.
You’ve seen that one, too?
So it ain’t just for a chocolate rush…)
And we crave, need, long for, something that lasts forever where the shine never tarnishes, the product follows through on all that is promised with no side effects, the feeling stays fresh and new, and neither moth nor rust destroys.
On a wish list drawn up to satisfy this kind of need would be items such as safety, security, acceptance, joy, happiness, comfort, encouragement, hope, unconditional love, and lasting peace—primordial human yearnings that prompt the pen of both advertiser and propagandist to adorn ad copy with a flourish of superlatives (best, always, never before), sealing the deal with “free delivery today!”
So we look. And experiment. And strive. And spend.
Again and again…
But far too often when once such treasures are secured (as they can be in a life lived well, however humble, which is a secret all too few discover), we are still driven–and disappointed.
On the Tears at the End of the Rainbow
A loved-one shared this story.
She wanted to make a particuarly long and arduous hike that few people complete. She spent months training. On the day she achieved this impressive goal, at the end, instead of reaping the joy she anticipated, she sat down at the end of the trail and–cried.
Didn’t know why, exactly.
We discussed this a bit and decided there might have been somewhat to unpack of an emotional, psychological, and/or spiritual nature…
But I think her story is an excellent illustration of what happens when any of us look around for what we know in our gut exists somewhere, a kind of inner nirvana, a mine that is not a mirage and that won’t, at journey’s end, reveal merely fool’s gold but, rather, will reveal the truest of true values in life.
On the Rainbow Maker
As viewed through the believer’s lens, no matter provision or circumstance, there is that quest worth the rewards and the risks, and does satisfy when the soul finds itself “bereft of peace,” and perhaps has “forgotten what happiness is,” as the author of the book of Lamentations puts it (3:17).
There is that which invites a search even today.
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking [I would add, or of buying and selling and collecting and displaying] but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)
This is the internal and everlasting treasure trove revealing daily riches that don’t bore, tire, or disappoint but deliver…
…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…(Galatians 5:22-23)
If you haven’t already discovered the Spirit lode, as it were, the quest begins here.*
And best of all, free delivery!
*For specifics, see here.
Image of Girl with a Pearl Earring from Wikimedia Commons