A Longing for Eternity
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end (Ecclesiastes 3:11, ESV).
More than three thousand years ago, a king named Solomon chronicled his search for fulfillment. He was the wisest and richest man of all time. If anyone could stroll down every conceivable avenue of potential satisfaction, it was Solomon, king of Israel. Long before the show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, the book of Ecclesiastes detailed his pursuit of pleasure.
Solomon constructed a palace so opulent it staggered world leaders, accumulated innumerable jewels and possessions, pursued advanced studies, and was with a different woman every night. He explored it all, yet with tears of frustration concluded, “So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:17).
He discovered what so many fail to realize: history is a repetitive loop of personal futility, with every imaginable experience on the horizontal plane promising fulfillment it can never truly deliver. Solomon was crushed by the realization that on his own, he could not fashion a happiness or satisfaction that would endure beyond the momentary. In Ecclesiastes 3, he turned his expression of frustration on God who made him, concluding, “He has put eternity into man’s heart” (3:11).
In this passage eternity refers to our deep and abiding awareness of something outside the boundaries of our senses. According to biblical scholar Michael Eaton, “Our consciousness of God is part of our nature, and the suppression of it is part of our sin.” Humans are unique because we hunger for something the experiences of this planet cannot satisfy—a quest for eternity.
The implications of Solomon’s statement are staggering: people are looking for the eternity God created them to long for, but they can’t find it on their own. Like a hungry man locked outside a gourmet restaurant, we know satisfaction is near but can’t get to the food. Like a blind man standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon, we feel the awesomeness close at hand with no capacity to take it in. Searching for eternity does not lead to finding until God Himself intercepts our wandering pursuit.
As Solomon rightly observes, fulfillment must come from a source outside ourselves and beyond this world: “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God for apart from him who can . . . have enjoyment?” (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25).
What Solomon tried in vain to fill is woven into the fabric of human existance. God designed us so we can’t find fulfillment or lasting enjoyment apart from this eternity. The more we try to satisfy our deepest longing by good and bad horizontal means, the more likely we are to miss God’s vertical invitation to experience Him.
Do you sense that same longing in your soul? Have you known the emptiness of looking for satisfaction in the next raise or relationship or reward? Like Solomon, you have a longing for eternity only God can satisfy. The underlying vacuum in the center of every soul is a manufacturer’s specification from God Himself. He is the One who has placed eternity in our hearts—and only He can fill it.
How have you found Solomon’s discovery to be true—no earthly pleasure truly satisfies your soul?
Even knowing this futility, where are you spending yourself on the pursuit of earthly pleasures?
Lord God, You have set eternity in my heart. Like Solomon, I have tried in vain to fill that deep longing with other things. Forgive me, God. I acknowledge that You, and only You, can truly, deeply satisfy the longings of my soul. Help me learn from Solomon. I will not look for meaning or fulfillment in my accomplishments, relationships, or earthly pleasures. You only will I seek, for You satisfy my soul. Thank You, my Maker, in the name of Your eternal Son, amen.