Holy Discontentment and Looking to the Beyond
Sitting my driving test for the first time was a most traumatic experience. The anxiety began in the carpark when I suddenly became concerned that I would fail the eyesight test (typically you are asked to read a number plate from a certain distance).
Things had been a little blurry of late and so I arrived early and memorised the number plate of every car in the car park, just in case. There was a panicky moment as the examiner directed me to read the number plate of the green mini to the right and I became concerned that the green mini and the red Fiesta had, somehow, switched places and thrown out my system of memorisation.
I did, however, make it as far as the car.
The test centre was situated in the middle of a council housing estate of narrow terrace streets with cars double-parked. I remember turning out from the test centre, heading down the street and setting myself to turn right onto the main road when suddenly and without warning the examiner floored the break. I remember watching, horrified, as a cyclist, previously unnoticed pedalled lazily in front of the car.
In the moment his foot hit the break the examiner saved the life of the witless cyclist and failed this hapless driver.
The frustrating part was that we were but two and a half minutes into a thirty minute driving test; I had twenty-seven and a half minutes of driving hell left, knowing full well that I had already failed the test.
The book of Ecclesiastes recounts King Solomon’s efforts to ‘seek and search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven’ (Ecclesiastes 1:13). It is surprising, shocking even, that just two verses later Solomon admits that even his great experiment to understand the world in which we live is doomed to futility,
What is crooked cannot be made straight,
and what is lacking cannot be counted (Ecclesiastes 1:15)
Solomon understands that his enquiry is ultimately meaningless; his observations may be thorough and astute and yet, ultimately, he is unable to change anything, ‘What is crooked cannot be made straight’. Furthermore, his objective examination may be able to uncover ‘all that is done under heaven’, but, ultimately, he is unable to fully grasp the significance of what he has observed. This is what he means when he says, ‘what is lacking cannot be counted’. Solomon understands that there is an element of mystery to all that is around us and that no degree of human enquiry can uncover the secret things of God.
This is even more shocking when we consider that Solomon was perhaps the wisest and most knowledgeable man ever to have lived (1 Kings 4:29-34) with phenomenal resources at his disposal. And yet, given all of this, Solomon feels the incredible frustration that, despite his genius, his experiment is little more than a chasing after the wind and that he is likely to end up with little more that a handful of air (Ecclesiastes 1:14).
I find this incredibly reassuring.
Wait, hear me out for a moment and let me explain myself.
I find this reassuring because it helps me understand my place in this world. Solomon will later remind us that God is in heaven whereas we are on the earth (Ecclesiastes 5:2). We are not God; we are his creatures and he is our Creator. This, when rightly understood, causes us to respond in humility.
And yet, like Solomon, we are still driven to ‘seek and search out’; only now the object of our seeking and searching is him. I call this ‘holy discontentment’. The frustration and futility of this life under the sun, rather than leading us to despair, instead causes us to seek and search him out. We long to see him, know him and be with him. Earth is no longer our home and he is our greatest treasure.
I also find reassurance in knowing that ultimate meaning and rescue is not found in me and does not originate under the sun. This is the glorious truth of the gospel, that God became flesh (John 1:14) and dwelt under the sun. Rescue comes into this world as the God-man Jesus Christ comes into the world.
This is ultimate truth.
Solomon is a son of David. Jesus Christ is the Son of David, the Son of Man and the Son of God (Mark 10:47-48, Mark 10:45, 13:26 and Mark 1:1, John 11:4, 20:31).
Solomon received wisdom and knowledge from God. Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature (Luke 2:52) and received the Holy Spirit without measure (John 3:34). Jesus Christ is, to those of us who believe, the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Solomon recognised the futility and frustration of life. On the cross, Jesus Christ ‘redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us’ (Galatians 3:13).
And so we thank God that the lustre of this world wears thin and, as we feel the futility and frustration of this life, we turn to Christ. We thank God that we only see in part and that the frustration of this compels us to seek him that we might know him more deeply. We thank God for the limits of our intellect and our resources that we might look beyond ourselves and look to him as our treasure, our hope and our delight.