The Emptiness of Existence

I have never been a fan of Woody Allen. I know he is supposed to be some kind of cinematic genius but I never really “got it” when it came to his work. His off-screen escapades don’t do much to engender me to him either. I recently read a quote of his, however, that helps me to understand him and humanity a bit better: “The artist’s job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.”            

Woody Allen has spent his life trying to fill the “emptiness of existence” in himself and those who watched his films. It is evident that he was driven to do so, yet he likely discovered as so many have before and after him that the emptiness that needs filling is insatiably hungry. You can bring the smorgasbord of worldly delights to the table but this gaping maw, this bottomless pit demands more and more.

The sad truth is that the vast emptiness in all of us can never be filled with anything this world has to offer. We can have moments when the hunger pangs subside for a time. A morning spent with a toddler, a day spent at the zoo, an evening spent with dinner and a movie, or a night spent in the arms of a lover can all provide a respite away from that black hole in the center of our souls, but those things can never ultimately fill it. You and I would stand a far better chance were we to attempt to fill the Grand Canyon by tossing in matchsticks.

I recently spent time reading Ecclesiastes. It’s opening words set the stage for a very Woody Allen-like script: “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, NIV). Perhaps the writer of these words, a man of immense wealth and power, might have adopted the Rolling Stones song “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” as his soundtrack of his life – were it around back then.

Is this the sum total of life? We go about day to day with an endless emptiness gnawing away inside of us, trying our best to keep it at bay lest we be sucked into it. We try this and then that and then something else hoping against hope that this time it might satisfy the hunger only to discover that in the morning that hunger has returned with the gluttony of a soul-eating Cookie Monster. We spend our days shoveling more entertainment and more stimulation into the emptiness of our existence then … we die. The antidotes we use to medicate the emptiness within are short-lived. So is there an answer to the emptiness of existence that truly satisfies, that fills life with a sense of meaning and purpose that does not fade with the coming light of a new day? Good news! Yes, there is.

Many years ago the Lord spoke through the prophet Jeremiah about this very same thing. “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)

The prophet Isaiah addresses the same human need. “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.” (Isaiah 55:1-2)

Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman at a well, a woman who knew the emptiness of existence and the daily routine of looking for something or someone to fill it. He spoke tenderly to her of a truth that would transform her life and truly satisfy her soul. “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

In Jesus there is satisfaction both for the moment and for all eternity. Jesus declared, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:37-38)

The answer to the emptiness of life is the Author of life. The answer to the hunger and thirst we have in our souls is found in the depths of God’s love expressed to us in Jesus Christ. He came not to condemn but to save. He came to meet our deepest needs and to fill the emptiness within. He came to save us and indwell us and empower us. He came to be with us so that we may never again be alone. He is our once and for all antidote to the emptiness of existence, in fact, He fills our existence with meaning and purpose.

If you do not know Jesus as Savior and Lord, the One who satisfies your soul and fills life with meaning, come to Jesus and live the life God has intended for you.

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