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The Search for Satisfaction: Looking for Something New Under the Sun

The Search for Satisfaction: Looking for Something New Under the Sun

by David H. McKinley

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We live in constant search mode looking for purpose and meaning, trying to find something, anything, that might satisfy the deep longings of our heart. Yet this search is nothing new. Even the wisest man who ever lived struggled with these same issues finding that everything in life was meaningless, a "chasing after the wind."

Follow Solomon's search through a


We live in constant search mode looking for purpose and meaning, trying to find something, anything, that might satisfy the deep longings of our heart. Yet this search is nothing new. Even the wisest man who ever lived struggled with these same issues finding that everything in life was meaningless, a "chasing after the wind."

Follow Solomon's search through a fascinating study of Ecclesiastes as in the depths of his despair he discoversthat only the God who made the sun can offer real and lasting results under it.Satisfaction guaranteed.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
McKinley, teaching pastor of the Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, TX, has taken on the mighty challenge of interpreting one of the least user-friendly books of the Bible, the dark and cynical Ecclesiastes. In it, he discovers certain hard but useful truths, reminders especially pertinent to an age of quick fixes. His little book goes a long way toward reviving a part of the Bible some readers have all but abandoned. For most collections. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Read an Excerpt

Every day, I go through the same routine.

With a few strokes on my keyboard and the click of a mouse,
I travel through a global gateway into a world of interaction and information. My "commute" via the Internet is similar to a rushhour drive, merging with masses and moving through a variety of points of passage called URLs, Web sites, and home pages.

The curious thing about this daily pattern is that it doesn't matter where I am, who I am with, or how I am dressed. All I have to do is summon my search engine, and I am empowered to connect and communicate on the global information highway. So, day after day, it is the same. Boot up. Log on. Select an engine. Start a search.

Oftentimes, routine searches only lead to frustration. I don't find solutions; I simply wander in search mode, wasting time,
energy, and effort. I click here. Go there. Read this. Look at that. I
link. I think. I log out. I walk away disappointed by my lack of success. And I wonder why I give time to such trivial pursuits, wishing
I had started with a clearer plan.

One day, I realized that what I experience in my daily Internet search routine has become a way of life for many. People face each new day, hitting the Enter key to search or plug in words and phrases with the hope of finding satisfactory solutions for life. They,
too, are powered by search engines. Not necessarily Google, Yahoo,
or the likes of Dogpile, but their engines are revving deep within to search for greater satisfaction in life. People want answers, experiences,
and contacts that will change the way they live and view life.
They live in search mode. People long for a day when they will encounter someone or something that will lead them to a fuller and more meaningful life.

Can you relate?

Have you ever had an itch on your back you couldn't scratch?
You stretch your arm over your shoulder. You can't get there. You twist it up behind you, but there is still no relief. You enlist the aid of another only to find that their assistance adds to your frustration.
You can't satisfy the agitation. Maybe even reading about it has you squirming right now.

Or what about the trip to the fridge at the end of the day?
Maybe you enjoyed an evening meal, but later that night you find yourself searching for something that will satisfy. You move to the pantry and try a handful of crackers. A cookie? Some chips? You nibble. You munch. But when all is said and done, your search ends without satisfaction.

We all know people who live with "itches" they can't scratch.
People long for a day when they will encounter someone or something that will lead them to a fuller and more meaningful life.
They go from experience to experience, from relationship to relationship,
from place to place, and from project to project without resolution. We know people who live with a gnawing sense that life is not satisfying, but they don't know what they want or where to look to find a solution. They seek guidance, growth, and gain only to find unsatisfactory results. They live in search mode, yet their search yields only disappointing results day after day after day.

Life soon echoes the mantra of Mick Jagger, that great British philosopher whose proclamation soared to the top of the charts: "I
can't get no satisfaction!" Yet forty years later, the Stones and many of their fans are still searching for satisfaction. The name of their latest world tour, A Bigger Bang, says it all. Like many of us, the Stones are still looking for something more.

How Can Anyone Find True Satisfaction?

In the fall of 2004, television ratings soared for ABC with the introduction of Desperate Housewives, a sizzling series depicting women who live in upscale suburban homes and wear designer clothes but are frustrated by their empty hearts. Their manicured lawns and orderly lives are only a facade to hide their confusion. These housewives are beautiful people with hungry souls desperate to find satisfaction.

And so it goes.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to speak with three former
NFL players. Each enjoyed a Super Bowl experience during his career. One was inducted to the Dallas Cowboy "Ring of Honor" at
Texas Stadium. Yet in each conversation, I heard the same refrain:"Success did not bring lasting satisfaction. The key thing to life is purpose, and I searched for that in football. I got to a place where I
had money, success, and all that went with it. But I was frustrated.
Life was complicated, and I was not a good husband, father,
brother, or person. My motivation to achieve did not result in lasting satisfaction."

We read of the young and restless, the new wave of "tweens" who have greater purchasing power than the previous generation of adolescents.
Yet these kids are filled with angst to know and understand what really matters in life.

We hear of Hollywood stars whose luminary excess only brings them distress. They are bombarded daily by a feeding frenzy of fans and photographers who are obsessed with every detail of their lives.
In the end, most celebrities struggle to understand why all of their assets provide only illusions of happiness. Listen to how French actress and sex symbol Brigitte Bardot described her life of beauty and wealth: "I have been very happy, very rich, very beautiful, much adulated, very famous . . . and very unhappy." And actor Harrison
Ford admitted the ultimate futility of fame: "The actor's popularity is evanescent-applauded today, forgotten tomorrow."

We observe people day after day going through the mundane routines of life, and we wonder, How can anyone find true satisfaction?

From the suburbs to the inner cities, from thriving cultural centers to rural landscapes, people are on a desperate search. They long to find a relationship that will complete them, to acquire a possession that will add value to them, to enjoy an experience that will change them, or to gain a greater knowledge that will enable them to move from search mode to satisfaction. In words that ring all too clearly in the minds and hearts of my generation, "I try . . .
and I try . . . and I try . . . and I try . . . I can't get no sat-is-fac-tion!"

Are You Living in Search Mode?

Can I get personal? Do you find yourself frustrated by your life's direction or lack thereof ? Are you searching for something but not sure what it is or how to find it? Is "search mode" the defining characteristic of your life?

Let me introduce you to a man who has reflected and written extensively on the subject of search-mode living. His name is
Solomon. He was the worldly, wise, and wealthy king of Israel who described search-mode living as the ultimate reality experience "under the sun."

Throughout history, Solomon has worn the moniker "Wisest
Man Who Ever Lived." Yet this wise and wealthy king relates candidly his own struggles to find satisfaction in life. Without the aid of a word processor or an electronic database, Solomon penned a journal of life reflections and conclusions.

It is interesting to note that Solomon's life journal begins with a bold and depressing assertion. Let's take a moment to consider it:

Smoke, nothing but smoke. . . . There's nothing to anything-it's

all smoke. What's there to show for a lifetime of work, a lifetime

of working your fingers to the bone? One generation goes its way,

the next one arrives, but nothing changes-it's business as usual

for old planet earth. The sun comes up and the sun goes down,

then it does it again, and again-the same old round. The wind

blows south, the wind blows north. Around and around and

around it blows. . . . Everything's boring, utterly boring-no one

can find any meaning in it. Boring to the eye, boring to the ear.

What was will be again, what happened will happen again.

There's nothing new on this earth. Year after year it's the same old

thing. (Eccles. 1:2-6, 8-9 MSG)

Another translation of his final assessment says, "Everything is so weary and tiresome! No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content. History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new" (Eccles. 1:8-9 NLT).

After reading this passage, you might feel like saying, "Pass the
Prozac!" If you are like me, you wonder if you want to read any more "inspirational thoughts" from Solomon's journal. His "life seminar" doesn't exactly sound like the kind of gathering you want to devote a weekend to for personal growth.

Solomon's words are frustrating, cynical, and irritating. From deep within, the reader cries out, "Surely there's more!"

At the same time, we have to admit that Solomon's words echo the unsatisfied feelings of people through the ages. T. S. Eliot once said, "We humans cannot bear very much reality!" I think he is right.
Though we don't like the cynical reflections of Solomon's search,
many of us can identify with the monotonous experience of living in search mode. And the truth is, we don't like it! No matter how hard we try to find answers or apply an advanced search, life seems like a repetitive merry-go-round-and we know all the horses by name. We are empty. We are bored. We grow tired of the search.

What should we do? There are days when our longing for satisfaction doesn't really matter. We just live to enjoy the moment. We laugh a little and go on with life. But there are days when this gnawing frustration-this unresolved search-calls us to seek answers.
How do we respond? Should we stop and admit it? Should we deny,
suppress, or seek to escape it?

The fact is, most of us go on living desperate lives only to echo
Solomon's conclusion about life "under the sun." We point, click,
connect, link; look, hope, buy, and sell-only to find ourselves staring at a blinking cursor on the screen of our lives with a message that reads, "Your search returned no results."

Solomon is not the only person to express such reflection and dissatisfaction with life. In Walden, Henry David Thoreau wrote,"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." I would paraphrase this to say, "Most people lead lives of active dissatisfaction."

We get busy. Life intensifies. Yet beneath all the speed, noise,
and activity-beyond the roles, responsibilities, and relationships-
we still struggle with dissatisfaction. Let's see what a few others have said about this subject.

British poet Matthew Arnold observed, "Most men eddy about here and there-eat and drink, chatter and love and hate, gather and squander, are raised aloft, are hurl'd in the dust, striving blindly,
achieving nothing; and then they die." And H. L. Menken said, "The basic fact about human experience is not that it is a tragedy, but that it is a bore."

Dare I continue? These are not exactly encouraging words; you won't see them imprinted over picturesque landscapes and framed in offices.

After reading these observations, Solomon doesn't sound so bad after all. All these echoes of gloom only serve to remind us that many have reflected on life only to observe that sometimes there is less out there than meets the eye.

Most lives are not marked by vices; they are simply lived with no purpose. And for the human soul, nothing is more horrific than the thought of living and dying in vain. Did I mention that the most common refrain in Solomon's journal is "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity"?

These negative observations could lead us to despair. But Solomon did not say life is only full of sadness and suffering. He did say life"under the sun" lacks sense and satisfaction. Thirty-seven times in his life-management seminar, Solomon uses words such as vanity, meaningless,
and not satisfied to communicate his idea of emptiness.

Finding Proofs for a Life That Matters

The Greek philosopher Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." So I want to invite you to take an exam. I know you may despise any thought of testing, but tests help you discover proofs for life. It certainly applies to the water you drink, the food you eat, the car you drive, and the home in which you live. It is even likely that the clothing on your back bears a tag included by
Inspector #9.

Tests assure quality and value in life. Doesn't your life (the most valuable thing you possess) deserve an examination? Wouldn't you like to find some "proofs" for a life that matters?

Maybe you are thinking, I can't add much to old King Solomon. I've already read enough of his evaluation to get depressed. I know. I had those same thoughts too. Then I discovered something about Solomon's journal: I spent enough time in his life-management seminar to discover that he wasn't so despairing after all.

Solomon started his journal with a bleak conclusion so he could take us on his journey to find a new beginning of hope and satisfaction.

Meet the Author

David H. McKinley is teaching pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas and author of The Search for Satisfaction. He has also served as senior pastor of Boca Raton Community Church and First Baptist Church in Merritt Island, Florida. He is a graduate of the University of Memphis, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, and Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. David shares life with his wife Connie and their two children, Joe and Lizzi.

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