By Eric Geiger
Blaise Pascal, the famous mathematician and theologian, wrote, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
Pascal’s statement is an accurate indictment on humanity, on our hearts. We are bored creatures, always looking for something to satisfy us.
Just as David could not sit quietly in his room alone that fateful night, our hearts are restless too. While we often look for experiences and possessions to relieve our boredom, neither brings us true satisfaction.
We can travel the world, watch anything we desire on our smartphones, read more books than any people who have ever lived, and eat an array of dishes that did not exist years ago.
For example, in the last decade both Instagram and the Luther Burger, a hamburger patty sandwiched between two donuts that serve as the buns, have entered our lives with great buzz and fanfare. What did we ever do without these inventions?
Yet as you read this there is somebody, somewhere in a new restaurant eating a burger smashed between two donuts, sipping on the newest and hippest craft beer, occasionally glancing at a flat-screen television, while stalking friends and celebrities on Instagram on the latest iPhone. And still bored.
Anything we experience in this world may temporarily numb our boredom, but it will not eliminate it and it will not satisfy us.
Essena O’Neill was an Internet celebrity who many teenage girls admired. With more than half a million Instagram followers, companies paid her to wear and post pictures of their products as she chronicled her thrilling and seemingly almost perfect life.
She made headlines and shocked many people when she abruptly walked away from all her social media platforms. After her decision she wrote, “I can’t tell you how free I feel without social media. Never again will I let a number define me. IT SUFFOCATED ME.”
While her posts seemed effortless to her fans, she labored and agonized over maintaining her public persona. She experienced what many teenage girls long for and it did not satisfy; it only suffocated.
Our experiences will not ultimately remove our boredom, but neither will our possessions. They always fail us as the newness quickly fades.
Stephanie Land is a gifted author who wrote a fascinating piece about her two years cleaning houses to support her daughters.
Because the company she worked for encouraged her to slowly clean houses in order to maximize profit, she paid close attention to the details of the families in the large, expensive houses she was cleaning.
She learned what couples slept in different bedrooms, which families were addicted to porn, and what medicine use moved from prescription to recreation.
She vacuumed elementary kid’s bedrooms that were bigger than her apartment, and saw families spend exuberant amounts of money, such as the receipt she found for a blanket that was more expensive than her car.
After two years of cleaning large homes filled with empty lives, Stephanie concluded the larger the home, the harder the people worked to afford it, and the more pills were needed to get through the misery.
She vowed to never have a house larger than she could clean herself.
Our boredom does not begin with large social media followings or big houses. It begins with the sin that plagues us from birth, from the time our mothers conceived us.
The reason we cannot sit still in a room is because of the sin in our hearts. We are bored because, in our sinful rebellion against the God who created us and loves us, we seek fulfillment and happiness in things other than Him, in things that fail to satisfy.
After scouring scientific research on boredom and interviewing hundreds of people about their own personal boredom, a group of psychologists concluded that boredom is much more than simply “not having anything to do,” especially in our culture as there is always something to occupy time.
Rather the psychologists concluded that boredom is “the unfulfilled desire for satisfying activity.” In other words, people are bored because their desire to be satisfied is unfulfilled.
We are perpetually bored and naturally restless unless we look to the One who never bores, to the only One who satisfies. Augustine wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
If our hearts rest in Him, we can sit in room and rest. If our hearts do not rest in Him, we won’t rest anywhere.
C. S. Lewis wrote, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
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ERIC GEIGER (@EricGeiger) is senior vice president of Lifeway Christian Resources.
Excerpted with permission from How to Ruin Your Life by Eric Geiger. Copyright 2018, B&H Publishing Group.