Everything is meaningless…

Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 really bugs me. 

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.

Have you ever felt that way?  You’ve run this way and that way looking for satisfaction or peace, you’ve tried to make yourself happy with this thing or that.  But after you had tried it all, it was meaningless, and you still weren’t really happy.

For us, it started with my husband and I losing our ministry positions at the church where I had been for 8 years. It was my home.  It was my family.  And serving was my life.  It was my purpose.  It was my identity. (OOPS, do you see a little problem in the last three comments…well, we’ll get to that later.)  And it was even worse for my husband in some ways, because he had been the staff pastor who had taken care of the congregation – picking out caskets, going to court, visiting in jail and the hospital.  That really WAS his everything, 24 hours a day.

So what did we fill our emptiness with?  The next, most obvious need – to make money.  My husband was out of a job, so that was normal and natural, right?  Yeah, that’s what we reasoned too.  We moved into real estate investing, buying (and cleaning by ourselves – ick!) foreclosed houses and then renting them or selling them.  I still had a secular job to pay the bills, but Ronnie was building our future and retirement.

And we bought houses, fixed them up, rented and sold them.  And we were STILL empty. What a surprise. (Not to mention, we have lost basically all our equity due to the economy – oh well…)

When we found out he and I couldn’t have children (I already have 2 children from a prior marriage), it was almost a death blow to my husband. Now we have 8 dogs and a kennel, and yes, they are like his children to him. So he bought dogs, built dog houses, built a doggie-condo (that’s what I call the kennels), had two litters.  And yet we were STILL empty.  Hmmmmm.  I’m beginning to see a pattern here.

For me, it was starting my own business in 2004 and trying to not only make money, but create a type of legacy, doing things no one else had ever done before on the internet, or being one of the first to do it.  I have created five (count them, 5) software programs to date.  I was hired as Lifetime TV’s Podcasting Consultant in 2006.  And guess what – I was STILL empty.

Marriage definitely wasn’t doing it for us.  Ronnie, was at the end of his rope with our marriage as well as me, but he didn’t want to end it, unlike me.  I left him twice – once in 2005 and once in 2009.  I still wasn’t happy.   Next idea?

Now during all of this searching and yearning and twisting and turning, there was the underlying truth that I just didn’t want to acknowledge: we were meant for a relationship with God and to serve him (not for our identity or purpose, but to add true meaning to our lives).  But we were running.  We couldn’t find a church where we felt comfortable, and always found something wrong with the Pastor. And we were trying to fill the GAPING HOLE where God should be with all sorts of other things.

During my last separation from my husband, he completely turned himself back over to the Lord.  Honestly, I never thought it would happen.  But it did, and his prayers and love for me, and example of trying Him once again led me back from the abyss and allowed me to try again.

Now, my depression didn’t end there.  I was miserable at church, but at least I WANTED to be near and right with God.  I just couldn’t do it due to the condemnation and guilt and shame and, well, crap I was feeling and hearing in my head.  But at least we weren’t trying to cram all sorts of other MEANINGLESS STUFF into the God-shaped hole inside of us.  We acknowledged that only God could fit in there.

Then, something strange happened.  We put first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matt 6:33).  And guess what – all those things started being added unto us.  I don’t mean more houses and more dogs and more programming jobs.  I mean that we started being able to find meaning and happiness in the other things that we had been doing – not eternal satisfaction, but everyday happiness.  We could enjoy these things because we weren’t trying to make them FIX us and make us FEEL BETTER. 

Our marriage has become enjoyable, because we’re not expecting it to make us happy.  The dogs are enjoyable (except when they bark at night), because we’re realizing they are just dogs, and yes, sometimes you have to sell them and they leave you.  My programming is enjoyable – as a creative feat and a possible money-maker; however, if I never do anything ground-breaking again, I’ll be just peachy-keen.

So my question to you is: What are you CHASING and yet still finding your life to be meaningless?  What are you trying to soothe your soul with?  Is it food? (I raise my hand quickly!)  Is it work?  Is it shopping? Is it other relationships?  Is it retracting in isolation?  

Your depression cannot be smothered by another relationship, activity or purchase.  You’ve got to work through your symptoms and, yes, deal with the root causes of the depression.  Chances are, they have something to do with you not being able to believe that God is good and on your side, at least not in your situation.  But that’s a post for another day…

If you are feeling that everything is meaningless, it’s because it IS.  Without the correct perspective, nothing is truly enjoyable.  And the correct perspective is that all of this earthly STUFF is just that, STUFF.  It can’t fill the God-shaped hole in you, and never will.  Not even your loved ones can do that indefinitely.  It’s just another cover up.  So turn to God and try to let Him meet your needs, and let all those other things bring you a modicum of earthly happiness in their passing seasons.

Penny Haynes