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Eternity in Our Hearts

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

ONE THING THAT SETS HUMAN BEINGS APART IS THEIR YEARNINGS. We have deep desires for things that we don’t have, longings for joys that we sometimes can’t even identify or express. There is something about us that is infinite — and that something finds it very frustrating to live in a world that is not only finite but broken.

In Ecclesiastes 3:11, we hear not only that “eternity” is in our hearts, but that God put it there. We have longings for things beyond this world because we are made that way. Given our created nature, we can no more not need eternity than we can not need joy or beauty or any other desire that is part of the human package. Some yearnings just won’t go away no matter how hard we try to ignore them, and eternity is one of them. We can deny it, suppress it, or try to fulfill it with lesser things, but the need is still there. Plainly, we were made for a different world than the kind of world this one has become, and until our hearts find the home in which they were intended to rest, we will experience unfulfilled yearnings.

It is important to face fully what it means that eternity is in our hearts. It doesn’t just mean that we need something that is hard to find in the temporal world; it means we need something that is impossible to find here. When sin broke the perfection of Eden, God was forced to withdraw Himself from direct contact with the human race. But we were made for communion with Him, and so for now, the thing we were made for, we can only long for!

We should give our yearnings for eternal life free reign. There is nothing wrong with groaning (2 Corinthians 5:1-8), and we should give ourselves permission to do it. Indeed, there is something seriously wrong with a person who could live in this world (ruined as it is by rebellion against what is right) and not groan. So we should embrace the eternity that is in our hearts, even at the price of the emptiness that it makes us feel right now. To set our hearts on eternity is not to slight our responsibilities in the here and now. It enables us to fulfill those responsibilities in hope.

“He who has no vision of eternity will never get a true hold of time” (Thomas Carlyle).