I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself; I made gardens and parks for myself . . . I collected for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I provided for myself male and female singers and the pleasures of men--many concubines . . . All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them . . . and behold all was vanity and striving after wind . . . . (Ecclesiastes 2:4-11)
Joel was only 45 when he died. I remember thinking he had what many men only dream of having: a loving wife and family, a good job, and well-liked in his community.
And yet, on a Tuesday evening after work he put a gun to his head -- and pulled the trigger.
In the few years I'd known him, he had the outward appearance of happiness. But outward appearances often belie the emptiness of the heart.
I wonder if long before the bullet shattered his skull, Joel had emptied his heart of what he'd learned as a child of God's love. As he grew older, did he try to fill that emptiness with things that promised fulfillment . . . things that ultimately left him empty?
To this day, no one knows why Joel took his life that Tuesday. But I wonder if, like Solomon, he realized wealth, position, and reputation are not enough to fill the God-created void St. Augustine spoke of in his Confessions: "Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee."
Who is not tempted at times to misorder life’s priorities, to choose the seductive allure of popularity, position or wealth to the sacrifices God requires of time, wealth and talent -- and not infrequently -- friendships, freedom, or even our very lives?
Decisions like that never occur overnight. They begin, and are nurtured, at the heart’s altar where, in time, they blossom into a mind-set of faith or faithlessness, trust or scorn, obedience or rebellion.
Turning from God's call on our lives doesn’t mean we’ll end up putting a gun to our head. But I’ve seen so often the results of running from Him, I think it’s a spiritual law: Those who persist in choosing their will over God’s reach the same conclusion Solomon reached before his conversion: “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).
What a tragic mistake it is to end a life like that.