Solomon opens Ecclesiastes with a dismal pronouncement: “Everything is meaningless!” (Eccles. 1:2) After spending much of his life in pursuit of monuments, fortunes, and pleasures, his all-out effort to fabricate meaning out of his own existence failed. Fast-forward to the final chapter and Solomon has grown wise, as he now refashions his formerly grim supposition into a more promising thesis: “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: Fear God and keep his commandments.” (Eccles. 12:13) In the end, Solomon’s soliloquy on the search for meaning led straight to God.
As a Christian, I too found myself searching for meaning. I knew I was already saved, having gratefully accepted Jesus as my Savior years before. But somewhere along the way my original enthusiasm had all but dried up, and my connection with God seemed lifeless. I longed to reconnect, and so began a quest. And that’s how I found myself rummaging through every box I could find, looking for God.
In the first box, labeled “How to be a Christian,” I found dozens of acclaimed books on living the Christian life. I read all about being a better person and learned valuable lessons. But God wasn’t in that box. So I opened the next box, labeled “The Student.” I memorized Scripture, scoured Bible commentaries, and studied the differences between various denominations, becoming particular about the nuances and distinctions of each. This box spoke deeply about God, but He wasn’t there. So I moved on. Then I lifted the lid off a box marked “Church” (not the body, but the building). I decided to throw everything I had into being a loyal soldier for my church–every Sunday, class-song-sermon, week after week. I even adopted the prevailing styles of my church friends and learned to speak using the common vernacular I knew to be popular among the group. Church life was good. But still, it wasn’t God.
Near the end of my quest, I came upon a box that gave me great hope–the box called “Grace.” Here I learned that I no longer have to strive to earn God’s favor by conforming to a set of dictums or rules. Instead, God, in His love, bestows upon His children unmerited favor. However, dishearteningly, after a short-lived “mountain-top” experience of reveling in grace, fulfillment once again alluded my grasp. This box, like all the others, testified to the character of God. But God Himself wasn’t in the box.
Eventually, I ran out of boxes. And so, like a child who thinks to seek his parents’ eyes only after the last present is opened, there was nothing left to do but to call out to God. “Father, there must be more to the Christian life than this,” I prayed. “Please, dear Lord, I’m your child. Come to me.” And at that moment, He did. He invited me to live in a relationship with him, and I accepted. And that changed everything.
Reflecting back, I see there was precious content in those boxes. I continue to learn from each of them to this day. But I no longer explore them to find God. God is not found in a box, and as Solomon would attest, neither is meaning. For both can only ever be found in a living relationship that we choose to walk in every day. And I began to come alive again the day I stopped looking for God in a box.
I hope this encourages you to live in the relationship today.
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