We are all consumers. Every day we live a regular pattern of consumption; from the food we eat, to the items we buy to the gasoline that powers our travels in between, we are almost always consuming something.
In fact, you could say that we’re in the season of consumerism. It feels like the moment the clock strikes midnight on November 1, the Christmas season — and its endless emphasis on shopping — is upon us. ’Tis the season for giving and receiving items and experiences.
Yet we’re not just consumers from an economic standpoint. Really, we’ve been consumers from the very beginning of humanity, when God provided vegetation for humans to eat. Since then, society has been slowly adding to the list of physical, mental and spiritual “things” that we can consume.
Today, we have access to an endless buffet to fill our bodies, minds, souls and homes with. There’s food, drugs, alcohol, Netflix episodes, social media, breaking news, sporting events, advice and opinions, hobbies, gossip, goods, services and more. To me, life is starting to feel like a constant stream of consumption, from morning to night.
For example, does this sound familiar? You wake up, check your phone for updates, eat breakfast, travel to work while listening to the news, podcasts, or music, consume and process information at work (taking breaks to check the news and social media or talk with coworkers), head home listening to news or music, eat dinner and eventually enjoy some form of entertainment like a TV show or book before going to bed. Rise and repeat. For many of us, this is a typical day.
Of course, I don’t think that the need to be entertained, eat, communicate or buy items is a bad thing. I do believe, however, that the ever-increasing ease and habit of accessing endless resources at all hours of the day has made us desensitized to the amount of things we’re consuming. As soon as we feel or even anticipate a need, we can fill it with something — anything — even if it’s not a perfect solution.
When we can easily check our phones, turn on the TV or grab something from the lunchroom to mindlessly eat, there’s never a reason to be without. There’s never a need to question why we’re consuming what we’re consuming, or if these things are actually providing fulfillment.
For me, it’s like constantly being thirsty but never having that thirst quenched, despite my best efforts. No matter what I put into my mind, body, soul and home, there’s nothing that makes me feel truly whole — except for one thing.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus metaphorically said to a Samaritan woman, “whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).
In Jesus, we have the unparalleled gift of experiencing a personal relationship with our Creator, the One who knows us better than we know ourselves. We have the gift of being restored to God — despite all of our sin — through Jesus’ perfect sacrifice of himself. We have the gift of receiving the Holy Spirit, who lives within us, helps us, reminds us of what Jesus has done and promises to be with us forever (John 14:15–17, 26). Most importantly, we have the gift of spending eternity in the all-fulfilling presence of God.
There is nothing on earth that can fill the God-shaped hole in our heart, other than Jesus himself. While it may be easier to constantly, and often mindlessly, pour things into our lives that provide fleeting enjoyment or distraction, they will always come up short.
Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Luke 11:9–10).
When we invite Jesus to fill that hole in our lives, He promises to do so (Psalm 145:15; Psalm 107:8–9; John 6:35). I pray that all of us, as we celebrate Christmas and look with hope to the New Year, will open our hearts to the only One who can truly satisfy them.