How futile this life can be.
We go about our day-to-day activities, scraping for some glimpse of meaning. We cover up the emptiness that carves out our insides with things that are ultimately as empty and useless as what we initially covered up.
“Vanity of vanities,” says the preacher. “All is vanity.”(1)
To paraphrase the book of Ecclesiastes, in the end everything is dust. Everything is a striving after wind. Whether we build up great wealth or eek out a meager poverty, in the end we will probably go out the way we came in: screaming, naked and alone. All that we have built will ultimately go to someone else. Every memory of us will eventually fade to gauze, and then to nothing. Whether we were monsters or angels, whether we changed the world for good or for ill, how will we ever know what comes after, or the part we really played? What do our actions actually matter?
What’s even worse is that, depending on our worldview, this might be all we get. If we are atheists, if we are agnostics, if we are Taoist, if we even lean toward Buddhism or Hinduism, outside of this world all of what makes us “us” will dissolve into the vast quantum ocean.
But there has to be more. There has to be more than this cold. Than this emptiness. There has to be more than the daily grind that rubs us until it has taken all that we are. Are we really just living for “the golden years?” Do we truly just exist for our paychecks and filling our bellies? Even if we live to better others — our family, our children, our spouse — how can we even then escape the plunge down the endless muddy spiral to oblivion?
I’d like to share something with you: a piece of art that has greatly affected me these past few weeks. It’s a song called “Holy Ghost” by John Mark McMillan. You can hear it via the YouTube video below. (This is definitely the best video, by the way, but not the best version of this song. To hear the better version from the album, click here.)
Every time I hear that song I break down in tears. I can’t help it: it just happens. When others are in the same room or riding in the same car as me they give me funny looks. But it’s not something I seem to have any control over.
“Who are we sometimes I wonder?
Mercenaries or lovers?
On this side of the thunder
It can be awful hard to know.”
“Sell our love for the paycheck
Or spend the night on the freight deck.
For all of the dues that we collect,
Our hearts can be overdrawn.”
“Dead in the water,
Like a lamb to the slaughter
If the wind doesn’t sing her song.
And I’m speaking in tongues,
Because I need a Holy Ghost.” (2)
Everything decays. Friendships, bodies, jobs, the world, the universe. If we live for this world, we are grasping for sand that will ultimately pour through our fingers. We need something outside of this world to grasp anything permanent. We need a Friend who is deeper than death. We need a Holy Ghost.
Maybe you think that I have now stepped into the realm of useless hyperbole. Maybe I am just speaking in dead religious terms about dusty outdated ideas. Maybe we should throw it all out and embrace the true core of this existence: nihilism. The striving after wind. It’s what most of the philosophers and great thinkers who rejected God throughout history did.
But there’s nothing academic about this. The Holy Ghost is real. I’ve met Him. And you can, too.
There’s an old Christian adage that when you accept Jesus as your savior the Holy Ghost comes and lives inside you, and you become a new person. This is called the “born-again experience.” However, I honestly have a hard time saying that a great number of Christians have ever really met the Holy Ghost – or at least actively know Him (especially in the western world.) If they had/did, Christianity would not be in the state it is in today. The Holy Ghost – one person of the fathomless, timeless, boundless God who created this whole universe – is a force beyond this world. And when you meet Him, He changes you forever. When you really and truly experience Him, there is no going back. Why? Because you wouldn’t want to.
There is a limitless fire that wants to come and live in your body. There is an unquenchable love that wants to overwhelm your hate and your apathy. The Eternal wants to call you Friend. A bottomless Life wants to fill your deadly emptiness. How do I know this? Because He wanted to do it for me, and He did. He has overwhelmed me with an unspeakable peace and drowned me in deepest depths of joy. He’s done it for countless others throughout history, too. (3) But He doesn’t stop there at that first time: He wants to do it new and afresh every single day. All we have to do is ask Him to do it.
This is why some people can pray for two hours without stopping every day: it’s because they’ve gotten hooked. They get to the point where they need their daily fix. They need that peace, contentment and joy new and afresh every day. And they know that the Holy Ghost is the dealer who always delivers.
So how do you get to meet this Holy Spirit? You ask Him to come and fill you. Even if He already lives inside you, ask for a new filling. Ask Him to make Himself real to you. And then sit down, be still, and see what happens. I bet it will change your life.
When the Eternal makes His home in your mortal structure of meat, you will find that you don’t just get Him: you get love, joy, peace, hope and more besides. You will know that you are Never Alone. That there truly is purpose to this existence. And you will find yourself, little by little, becoming that new person. Why? Because the God of the universe has just added Himself to you. How could you help but do anything else?
Is the world cold and cruel and callous? It can be. But we have a comforter. We have a help. We have a friend. And He just so happens to be the God of this universe and beyond.
I’d love to hear from you, either in the comments or via email at email@example.com. I’d love to hear your questions, thoughts and even your objections. Because, at the end of the day, I think you need this Holy Presence, too, and I want to do whatever it takes for you to get Him.
1. Ecclesiastes 1:2
2. John Mark McMillan, “Holy Ghost.” (+180 Records, 2014.)
3. Here’s evangelist Charles Finney’s story of meeting the Holy Ghost: http://www.lit4ever.org/baptism.html – Here’s revivalist Evan Robert’s experience: http://www.revivaltimes.org/index.php?aid=803 – Here’s the founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley’s story – http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/131christians/denominationalfounders/wesley.html?start=1
Image (c) Can Stock Photo