Human beings are created to be in communion with the Creator. When we look at the Garden of Eden and the first man and woman, we see that communion expressed in some beautiful ways. For instance, communication was direct and clear. As Adam and Eve walked with God through the garden, they heard and understood Him clearly. When God told Adam to name the animals that He had created, Adam set about to the task at hand (I really enjoy the old Bob Dylan song, “Man Gave Names to All the Animals”). There was gardening to be done, and the man worked with joy. Eve was given to Adam as a helpmate, because God noted that it was not good for him to be alone. After all, God had created Adam to be social and to have relationships, with the first and foremost relationship being with the Creator.
Of course, we all know what happened in the garden: Satan tempted Eve, and both she and her husband sinned by disobeying God’s command. This resulted in the curse that we find in Genesis 3, along with the expulsion of our forebears from Eden. As a result, Adam and Eve would experience a broken communion with God. It’s hard to conceive of what that must have felt like – to have once walked with God in perfect, innocent communion – and what it must have felt like to have that severed. Sin separated Adam and Eve from that communion, and while they still heard from God, it was not in the same way as it had been in the garden. The consequence that we find throughout Scripture (e.g., Ecc. 3:11, Ecc. 9:3, Rom. 1:18—22) is encapsulated by Blaise Pascal, the 17th century French mathematician, physicist, inventor, and religious thinker: “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable Object; in other words by God himself.” (This quote is sometimes paraphrased as, “There is a God shaped vacuum [or hole] in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus,” but the above quote is the actual one from Pascal’s work, Pensées).
As Pascal rightly observes, we seek to fill this emptiness in our lives with anything and everything except God. None of these can possibly bring the satisfaction we crave. We think that if we just had a little more wealth, we’d be satisfied. When that doesn’t work, we think that fulfillment must be in power or influence. Hitting another dead-end, we move on to all sorts of physical pleasures, only to discover that they leave us empty at the end of the day. Like the writer of Ecclesiastes, who tried to find purpose and satisfaction in “everything under the sun,” we end up in greater and greater despair: it’s all vanity and chasing after the wind. Yet because our hearts remain sinful (e.g., Jer. 17:9, Rom. 8:7), we pursue a desperate intensification of those things in which we seek to find fulfillment and purpose: politics, education, physical relationships, and so forth.
Only Christ can satisfy. Augustine, the great theologian of the early church, put it this way: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in You.” No other thing can bring the satisfaction and peace that Christ does. If you are pursuing anything else, if you find your identity in anything else, you will be unsatisfied and unfulfilled. During this Advent season, I encourage you to examine your heart and see if you are substituting the things of this world for Christ. If so, there is no better time than today to turn to Him and find your satisfaction in your Lord and Savior. Just something to think about…