OK, I'm just gonna ramble here in a stream of consciousness type post; I've been researching and preparing for Sunday's message.
The text is Ecclesiastes 3.11 "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has placed eternity in our hearts, and we cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end."
I want to look at the second phrase first: the concept of placing eternity in our hearts. This word "eternity" gives the picture of several things at once: infinity, restlessness, a bottomless hole. Dr. Francis Schaeffer made much of this verse and said that God has placed an "infinite God sized hole" in our heart.
We experience this hole, this awareness of something bigger than ourselves, as pain, loneliness, isolation, restlessness, a lack of ability to ever completely satiate our desires. We can harness the energy of this restlessness by seeking God, or we can try to fill it with other things. I want to brush past the cliches (sex, drugs. rock and roll) and look at how the Christian tries to fill this hole. A Christian will try and fill it with bible study, with prayer, with ministry. And they will come away from these activities, these licit and worthy activities, still feeling the hole, the pain, the restlessness.
But this cannot be admitted. The church promotes the myth that we can be fully satisfied here on earth if only we "walk in the spirit" and so we endure the facade. And so as we struggle with the reality of life, of Christian life, Christian existence, we hide, we pretend, we lie, to each other and to ourselves, that the hole has been filled.
I got an email today. A friend is working as a missionary in Indonesia. Here's a snip:
I could use p as it has been difficult for me to decide what I should do when my six months were up. Part of me doesn't want to leae th kids, part of me feels sure it is time to go. Part of me just wants to come home and get a job and forget about needy people in other parts of the world. Part of me knows I can never do that and just go on like they don't exist.Ministry is great. It's worthy. It's holy. But it's not enough. How can I say that? Because we'll never be complete, we'll never be satisfied, this side of heaven. And those who tell us differently are peddling snake oil.
Now let's look at the first phrase: "God has made everything beautiful in its time." We are taught this picture of God as this being, high in the heavens, who created everything and gave man free will. But man abused this gift, and messed things up. He brought sin into the world. God has got to respect our free will, so he "allows" things to happen. Things that, if God had his way, wouldn't have happened, and are by no means his fault nor his responsibility.
We want to defend God against unfair charges that he is responsible for how things are in the world. God doesn't need our defense. He's quite capable of taking care of himself, thank you very much. "If a disaster occurs in a city, has not the Lord caused it?" ... The LORD All-Powerful has made this promise: Everything I have planned will happen just as I said. But he alone is God, and who can oppose him? God does as he pleases, and he will do exactly what he intends with me. I create light and darkness, happiness and sorrow. I, the LORD, do all of this.
When we say that "He has made everything beautiful in its time" we mean that everything is God Filtered. God does as he wishes; no one resists his will. The will of God comes to pass, completely, perfectly, reliably, always in every way without exception.
What this means for us is that we can rest. Rest in our restlessness. Rest in knowing that God is in command, God is sovereign, God is all powerful. And God had determined to have a relationship with you. To save you. To give you the gift of grace.
The final phrase states that "We cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end." We will never understand any of this, not completely, not enough to fill the hole, not until we are with him in heaven. We're permitted to seek understanding, but not to demand it. When desire evolves into demand, we cross the threshold into sin.
Rest in God. Trust him. Know that he loves you, that he cares for you, that he is aware of your situation, that he is involved, and that if you knew what he knew, you would do exactly what he is doing right now. The situation that you are in right now is the situation that God himself has placed you in, designed for you, from fhe foundations of the earth.