A few months ago, I was a feeling a little worn down. I felt as if I wasn't getting anywhere and I was just going through the motions in life. It seems really silly sometimes when we catch ourselves thinking or feeling that way. All things considered we live in one of the better places to live in the United States, which is one of the better places to live in the whole world and perhaps human history. This is precisely why it's popular on Twitter to complain about #firstworldproblems. We make a joke of out of our existential crises over the tiniest of inconveniences in our lives.
But the fact is, the modern world is often dissatisfying. But our existential crises are nothing new! There is a Hebrew word in the book of Ecclesiastes for it: hevel, which translates meaninglessness, vanity, and futile. The word is a synonym for vapor, carrying the sense of a momentary breath which is there for but a moment then gone. Like the preacher of Ecclesiastes, we long for the bigger and better, for things substantive, to just feel something, anything. So we pursue anything that we can to get a rise out of our souls. We are dissatisfied unless there is more money, more people, more fun, more emotion, more to suppress the sense that it may be all for nothing in the end. Just a flashy show for a little while then we die.
The good news is that Jesus says, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly," (Jn. 10:10). He spoke of the kingdom of God being "at hand," (Mt. 4:17), and that he himself brings the kingdom (Lk. 17:21). He spoke of his kingdom as something worth giving up all we have for in order to possess it (Mt. 13:44-46). The kingdom is a place full of joy where Jesus reigns. But he also says "whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will keep it," (Lk. 17:33). This is why the preacher of Ecclesiastes calls our pursuits so pointless; they are all about preserving our "stuff" instead of finding our lives in losing them.
It was reflecting on the kingdom of God that gave me comfort that day. Didn't Jesus say it's like a tiny mustard seed that grows into a large tree? We know in the end what satisfies the soul is reconnecting with the source of life itself: Jesus. He is the one who, by his Spirit, produces in us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These things are of eternal value and do not fade away. Then Jesus' words about losing our life to gain it don't sound so "hard" after all, but freeing. I don't need more stuff, more money, or more success. I need less of them because I need more of Him and more of us for his kingdom. Only in this will we bear a harvest of joy that is deeply satisfying.