Do we live our lives on a treadmill? Tomorrow morning the alarm will go off. You will wake up, shower, shave, get dressed, and get in your car. You will stop at Starbucks, sit in traffic, get to your office or cubicle or workstation. At lunch you will eat something, probably with some friends. After work you will go back to your workstation and work until 5:00 or 6:00. You will then leave work, maybe go to the gym, but probably not. You will go home, you will eat dinner, you will watch a little television, and you will go to bed. And then you will do the very same thing the next day. Life is more like the film Groundhog Day than anyone cares to admit. We’re trapped. We’re locked out of the garden. We’re in a rut, just toiling under the sun. The cycle is endless. The pursuit is meaningless.
Until we honestly evaluate this life under the sun, until we are ready to look at our lives and see that the real meaning lies outside the world’s system, we will be stuck on the treadmill. This place is broken. There’s no sense in looking into it for the fix.
We are exiled from the garden into a wasteland, and we keep thinking we can make this wasteland into the garden. But that doesn’t work, and it never will. What has been lost is too great for us to recover on our own. The gap is too wide for our feeble attempts to bridge.
You can make money the ultimate goal in life. Hundreds of thousands of people have. There’s nothing inherently wrong with more possessions; otherwise God wouldn’t tell us not to steal each others stuff. But like the Eagles said in their hit song, “You can spend all your time making money; you can spend all your love making time.” You can put all your energy in to accumulating stuff. You can buy a house that you rarely spend time in because you’re working fifteen-hour days so you can amass a fortune. But in the end, you’re going to be painted up like a clown, put in a box, and buried in the ground. I don’t mean to be crass. I’m just being honest.
Or how about something more spiritual? Take religion for another instance. Religion practiced apart from faith in Jesus Christ is called self-righteousness in the Bible, and not even those trying to perfect faith, the Pharisees, qualified for God’s kingdom. This is very important to note. Faithless religion is vanity. No matter how many people it practically helps, no matter how good it makes you feel, religious effort not rooted in the Gospel is rooted in self-justifying self-worth. This is basically meaningless.
Granted, a sense of both pride and permanence occurs when you finally own a home. When you leave the apartment and you finally get that house, there’s this feeling that you’ve arrived. There is also something that happens to the soul of someone who works all day to build something. We are hardwired to resonate with this kind of work, because it resembles God’s original mandate to Adam to subdue the Earth and take dominion over it. When you landscape your yard, and get your hands dirty in the dirt and grass so that everything looks great, and you look back at it, saying, “Oh man, this looks beautiful,” you’re tapping into that feeling that you’ve subdued something.
Realize this, however. The peace we seek down in our souls cannot be satisfied by anything but God’s peace. We tend to run out of fantasies. We have a sense of being unfulfilled. Anything we could think up we’ve done. We played it all out. In the end, when we’ve done everything there is to do, we find ourselves right back in the same place we were before we ever started our pursuit. We decide life is boring and predictable. We end up frustrated.
The powerful irony of this frustration is that God is the author of every good thing. Pleasure, partying, gardening, work, money, material things, and even sex, are all God’s ideas. Adam and Eve were created and set in the garden wearing nothing and needing nothing. That’s incredible! I love the way God started the whole thing: one man, one woman, a bunch of acreage, and naked. “Go play, frolic, and have a good time.” We pursue this kind of satisfaction and fulfillment all our lives. In this fallen world we come out of the womb seeking peace. From the second we are born, we seek our own happiness.
This never changes, even as the pursuit does. It may look different the older we get, but the desire is always the same. We seek our own pleasure. It’s the motivating factor behind everything we do. But it is not the need that is wrong; it is the degree to which we pursue things apart from Jesus Christ. We need to realize just how far we are from God’s peace in our lives. The peace which passes all understanding does not come from accumulating stuff. It comes from having Jesus in our hearts. We’re told to seek God and heaven and all things we need will be added unto us. This is the proper focus for our lives.