What sustains you in your vocation? Whether you are talking about your career, marriage, life at home, friendships, or hobbies, each of us can reflect on what it is that sustains us for the long haul. It’s a struggle. Many things that we think will sustain us too often don’t. Spending a career chasing money leaves us feeling the weight of “golden handcuffs.” We work to become the king of the hill, and then find out that it’s lonely at the top. Our bodies fail, feelings fade, and we encounter the weight of disappointments in relationship after relationship, in pursuit after pursuit.
The Bible has a word for this feeling: “vanity.” It’s what the writer of Ecclesiastes (given the Hebrew title “Koheleth”) writes about at the beginning of his book. But we might use another word today: “futility.” And so James Kugel translates the opening verses of Ecclesiates this way: “‘So futile,’ says Koheleth, ‘everything is so futile!’ What does a person ever gain from all the effort he expends on this earth? One generation goes off and another comes in, but the earth stays the same forever.”
Whether it’s our career or family or the many other relationships we have in life, it is a very normal thing to encounter this feeling of futility in “the big boring middle of the long book of life.” Faced with this, we can seek satisfaction in thrill-seeking, or perhaps we can just retreat to our couches and assume that this is just as good as it gets. But there is another way, and it’s a way forward that can change everything.
Jesus said in John 10.10 this: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.” The gospel of Jesus Christ is here to bring life. Jesus gives his life to pay the price for our sin and failings so that we don’t have to pay that price. Jesus is alive, and thus declares his victory over sin and death. Feelings of futility exist because we live in a sinful world, and the victory that Jesus is claiming, now in part, and completely in the future, is a victory that casts aside futility. In Jesus there is purpose. In Jesus there is meaning. In Jesus there is hope. In Jesus there is a present. In Jesus there is a future.
We can discover our need for Jesus when we encounter our own sin and brokenness. We can discover our addiction, anger, pride, or lust and in doing so discover that we need a savior. But the Ecclesiastes writer reminds us that we can also discover our need for Jesus in the ordinary malaise that we can encounter on any given day. In our feelings of boredom in our job, in frustrations with long-term bad patterns in our marriage, in feelings of failure in the direction of our children’s lives, in countless ways where we see futility, we discover the place where Jesus can offer hope.
Jesus came to give abundant life, now and later. Whether you struggle in deep sin or rebellion, or just struggle with feelings of futility, put your trust in Him. He is the answer that you need.