July 20, 1993
Is it that “familiarity breeds contempt” or that people are never satisfied? I’m not sure. What I do know is that the thrill or satisfaction of having a new car or house or dress or anything else lasts about a week, maybe two.
What is the matter? Why do we get tired of things so easily? We seem prone to discontent. I even wonder if necessity really is the author of invention? or is it discontent? We produce new things simply because we get tired of the old.
Sure, that excludes some things... like shoes that fit well, good friends and favorite recipes.... but most old things are discarded long before they outlive their usefulness.
Perhaps lasting satisfaction is fleeting because contentment is elusive. In fact, Solomon figured contentment was a gift from God. Notice these few lines from Ecclesiastes:
“When God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work — this is a gift of God... he seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.”
If anyone considers themselves content, thank God. What a gift to be occupied with gladness!
Solomon goes on. “I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on men: God gives a man wealth, possessions and honor, so that he lacks nothing his heart desires, but God does not enable him to enjoy them, and a stranger enjoys them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil.”
Without this God-given gift of contentment, no matter how much a person has, there is no capacity to enjoy possessions. How sad. Solomon says: “No matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity... a stillborn child is better off than he.... it has more rest than does that man.”
Solomon also said “all man’s efforts are for his mouth, yet his appetite is never satisfied.”
Some say we have a God-shaped void inside of us, one created by Him that He intended only be filled by Him. Whatever that means, the Bible never portrays God as a kill-joy who doesn’t want us to be happy about anything else but Him. He made us able to enjoy many things, just as Solomon says.
Rather than making God the Creator of an inner void, is seems more realistic to see Him as Enabler of satisfaction and contentment with what we do have, whatever it is and however much it is. That way, God is not restricted as to how He will fill the void.
Sometimes He does it by helping us better understand our inner longings so we match the remedy with the ailment instead of confusing them with a need to go out and spend money. Sometimes He does it by giving us an eternal perspective so the things of this world lose some of their importance — and having them loses some of its immediacy.
What God really wants is that we understand His promise to take care of all our needs. He is concerned about our wants but only grants them if they will not harm us. He also teaches us how to recognize the difference between needs and wants so we can be thankful instead of grasping for more.
Solomon discovered the important things in life and the secret of being content, but it was not without trying everything else. After filling his life with all anyone could ever want, he concluded that unless God blessed him with satisfaction, he might as well not bother.