Eternity Set in Our Hearts
Thornton Wilder, the late great American playwright and novelist, wrote the play "Our Town" in 1937, which won a 1938 Pulitzer Prize. In the play, a character says, “I don’t care what they say with their mouths—everybody knows that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses, and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even stars...everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings...There’s something way down deep that’s eternal in every human being.”
This corresponds with what Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us: that God “has also set eternity in the human heart.” Look around you at all those people walking the streets, working in offices, standing in lines, sitting in restaurants. Their eyes are filled with needs, hopes, longings. The world tells them they’re just molecules and DNA, time plus chance. But their hearts cry out for eternal realities, for what will last, what really matters.
They search for something, anything, to fill the raging emptiness within. Satan offers them anesthetics that temporarily dull the pain, but they wear off. The promise of fulfillment is always broken. So they go right on searching in all the wrong places. They turn to drugs, sex, money, and power for the same reason they turn to religion and self-help seminars. Their instincts tell them “something’s missing, there has to be more.”
And they’re absolutely right. Something is missing.
The first thing missing is the person we were made for—Jesus. Haggai 2:7 refers to Messiah as “the desired of all nations,” the Person that all people of all cultures long for.
But there’s something else missing. Every human heart yearns not only for a person, but a place. The place we were made for. The place made for us.
In Revelation 7:12, Jesus makes a great promise to those who obey him: “I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the New Jerusalem which is coming down out of heaven from God, and I will also write on him my new name.” Jesus says he will put on us the name of the person and the name of the place (heaven) for which we were made.
We spend our lives longing for this person and this place. Just as people restlessly move from relationship to relationship seeking the person they were made for, they move from location to location seeking the place they were made for. Somewhere new and better. A bigger house. A different city. The suburbs. A new neighborhood—safer, nicer, with better schools. That dream house in the country. That idyllic mountain chalet. That perfect beach cottage.
People are made for the eternal and therefore cannot be ultimately satisfied by the temporal. We long for a future world of justice, purity and joy—and a King who will bring all of those. We therefore cannot be happy with the present world of injustice, impurity and suffering.
True joy comes in anticipating, and living now in light of, the world yet to come and that world’s King, who made us for Himself.