I Often Feel Empty Inside, What Should I Do?
By Su Chenyu
I stand on a busy street, listening to the bleating of car horns, watching throngs of pedestrians rush past while buses jam up the intersections, packed like sardines up and down the road. In this sort of environment, the air has a palpable tension. In this age of soaring economic growth, the pace of life has become ever more hectic.
Starting at five o’clock in the morning, the city’s subway starts getting busy. The commotion lasts all day and only in the wee hours do the streets’ crowds begin to thin. Even then, the lights of certain office buildings stay lit throughout the night. People rush about busily, their lives like spinning tops revolving at ever faster speeds. Some people pursue their dreams, moving up the ranks in their fields; Some, in order to provide for their families, work at all hours, never passing up on any opportunity to make money; Others rack their brains researching ways to get rich, so that they can lead lives of luxury … some achieve their desires—for them, the sky is the limit on their road to riches; others aren’t so lucky and their path to prosperity and fame is wracked with repeated failures. Be it celebrities, revered personages, or just everyday people, everyone is fighting and persevering through the suffocating miasma of modern day life, and I was no different.
On this path of pursuit of wealth and fame, I began by busying myself with schoolwork, hoping to “distinguish myself and bring honor to my ancestors.” I wanted to excel over my peers and become one of the elite, so that all would look on me with respect and admiration. I told myself that I must work hard to achieve my goals and I often eagerly awaited the day when my dreams would become reality. In the days and years that followed, I gave myself over to diligent study and put in more effort than any of my peers. After over ten years of hard study, I tested into university and got a job with a high salary after graduation, just as I had wished. However, in a society that prizes money above all else, people engage in all manner of connivance, intrigue and deception to win status and power. Mixing with all manner of people, day in and day out, I slowly lost my sense of self. The busier I became, the more I felt an odd sense of anxiety closing in on me and the more I pursued the goals that I wished to achieve, the more helpless and empty I felt inside. I had fallen into a vicious cycle and often felt unexplainably anxious and agitated. It seemed that after achieving my dream of “distinguishing myself and bringing honor to my ancestors” through over ten years of diligent study, I should be happy, fulfilled and enjoying myself, so I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t happy at all and didn’t feel even the slightest bit of spiritual solace. How was it that, to the contrary, I felt completely hollowed-out inside? I couldn’t find the root of my problem, much less did I know how to rid myself of this strange feeling of anxiety and emptiness.
Later, I found my answer in God’s words: “The fame and fortune that one gains in the material world give temporary satisfaction, passing pleasure, a false sense of ease; in the process, they cause one to lose one’s way. And so people, as they thrash about in the vast sea of humanity, craving peace, comfort, and tranquility of heart, are engulfed by wave after wave. When people have yet to figure out the questions that are most crucial to understand—where they come from, why they are alive, where they are going, and so forth—they are seduced by fame and fortune, misled and controlled by them and irrevocably lost. Time flies; years pass in the blink of an eye, and before one realizes it, one has bid farewell to the best years of one’s life” (“God Himself, the Unique III”). God’s words allowed me to see clearly why I had lost my way. The problem, it turned out, was my pursuit of wealth and fame. I reflected upon how in the pursuit of my goals, I never found my true direction and was, instead, led off by wealth and fame, thinking that the attainment of wealth and fame would allow me to enjoy a good material lifestyle and be supported and praised by my peers. When I pushed myself to the limits in the academic ranks, when I solved the hardest problem sets, when I stood on the stage to receive my awards, when I received praise from others, when I started working and made my first million … In all these cases, I felt a fleeting sense of satisfaction and gratification and believed that I had finally shown my worth. This would lead me to continue working even harder, with the expectation of even greater achievements … I never imagined that I had unwittingly become completely consumed with the singular pursuit of money and fame above all else. As time passed, I fell deeper and deeper into my obsession, gradually lost my sense of self and was completely incapable of stepping off this treadmill to wealth and fame. Throughout this process, I always felt this lingering sense of emptiness which made me anxious, helpless and agitated, but I didn’t know what the problem was. Only after reading God’s word did I come to the realization that all my problems stemmed from my endless pursuit of wealth and fame. Wealth and fame had been the carrot on the stick driving me forward and this singular pursuit had made me lose my way, so that I felt directionless and lacking a sense of belonging in my heart and soul.
God’s words allow me to understand the source of our emptiness and show me how in this mortal world of material desire, all people strive for fame and fortune and give everything in their pursuit, but almost no one seeks the meaning of life. Just as God’s words say: “For tens, thousands, tens of thousands of years until now, people have been squandering their time in this way, with no one creating a perfect life, all intent only on mutual slaughter in this dark world, on the race for fame and fortune, and on intriguing against one another. Who has ever sought after God’s will? Has anyone ever heeded the work of God?” (“Work and Entry (3)”).
These words make me reflect on how, in our pursuit of fame and fortune, we engage in mutual struggle and slaughter and don’t dare to waste even one second. We trumpet high-sounding words like “ideals”, “career” and “aspirations” as reasons to struggle to get ahead of the next guy, and we also fear being outdone. We fear that if we let down our guard for just one second, we’ll lose everything and fear that if we can’t keep pace with society we’ll be weeded out. Our hearts are filled with fear, and so we throw ourselves into our studies, burning the midnight oil night after night; we slaughter each other in the workplace, and constantly work to update our knowledge; we connive and deceive in the marketplace, thinking only of how to preserve our delicate and complicated relationships with colleagues; in the political realm we dive in head first, wading through all manner of precarious and dangerous situations, and seemingly always teetering on the edge of the abyss. In the pursuit of fame and fortune, no one knows who will be the victor and who the loser. Yet, everyone wages their bet as if gripped by madness, no one wants to lose and so they’re always preparing for the next round of battle. We delight in fleeting successes and despair in our failures. With every failure, we feel again that desire to pick up and fight once more, so we struggle on to our next success … Back and forth we go, and we can’t escape this vicious cycle. In pursuit of money, fame, power and status we lead this fast-paced lifestyle day in and day out. Everyone’s fighting and struggling, sinking ever further into a life of evil, growing ever more distant from God, and gradually losing any sense of direction in life. No one stops to reflect upon the real meaning and value of life, thinking that only by pursuing as they do will they have not lived in vain. We are spurred along relentlessly by the pursuit of fame and fortune, advancing blindly as if in a fog and wasting precious years … How many people have utterly exhausted their bodies and minds, pushing themselves to the limit to realize their goals? Day after day they work overtime, they throw themselves headlong into their work, sometimes even sacrificing their lives in the process and, so, we often hear of people dying from overwork. How many people have succeeded in their work and gained a good reputation only to realize that their health had long ago deteriorated and that all the fame and fortune in the world would be powerless to commute the death sentence of whatever illness afflicts them. When they finally realize all this, it is already too late. In our struggles for fame and fortune, we pass into Satan’s dark dominion, losing God’s blessing and sinking into an abyss of endless suffering.
What can we do to resist Satan’s temptation, step off the treadmill to fame and fortune and live a relaxed and free lifestyle? In my search for an answer to this question, I came upon the experience of Job and Abraham in a book I was reading and was deeply moved, knowing I had found my direction in life. Job was a man of high status among the Eastern people, but he didn’t covet his position in society, but rather devoted his life to pursuing the path of fearing God and shunning evil. When Satan attacked and tempted Job, sending him into financial ruin, Job didn’t worry about how he’d recover his wealth and reestablish himself in society, but rather sought God’s will. He knew that no matter whether God gives or takes away, he must praise Jehovah God’s name. Because of this, he didn’t utter even a word of complaint against God and stood firm in his testimony to God. Job received God’s commendation and lived a most meaningful and valuable life. Abraham was a man of no small wealth and reputation in his community, but he didn’t live for fame and fortune. He also devoted his life to pursuing worship and submission to God. When God commanded him to leave his country and kindred and relocate to the land that God specified, Abraham had no trouble leaving behind his reputation and didn’t worry about the future, but only listened to God’s word and submitted to God’s plans, resolutely uprooting himself from his old country. When Abraham had his first child at the age of one hundred, God tried him by asking that he give his first child back to God. Abraham saw no choice but to do as God said—he didn’t try to reason with God, but submitted to Him outright, offering up his only child to Him. When God observed Abraham’s display of sincerity, He not only declined to take Isaac, He even blessed Abraham with offspring as abundant as the stars of heaven or the grains of sand on the seashore. Neither Abraham nor Job were seduced by fame and fortune and they persisted in their submission to and fear of God no matter the situation. They were able to do so because they understood their relationship with God and knew that, as created beings, they must worship Lord the Creator unconditionally. I trust that many of us, as Christians understand this idea in theory, but we would be hard-pressed to abandon wealth and reputation, follow God’s way and submit to God’s plans and orchestrations like Abraham and Job. Actually, as humans living on this earth, we just ought to pursue knowledge of God, worship God, practice God’s word and fear God and shun evil. This is the duty that we as created beings enjoying God’s supply of life ought to fulfill and it is the ultimate meaning and value of our lives. Just as God says: “If people have a genuine understanding of God’s disposition, and can give heartfelt praise to His holiness and righteousness, then it means they truly know Him and possess the truth; only then do they live in the light. Only once a person’s view of the world and of life changes does one undergo a fundamental transformation. When one has a life goal and comports oneself according to the truth, when one submits absolutely to God and lives by His words, when one feels peaceful and illuminated to the depths of one’s soul, when one’s heart is free of darkness, and when one can live entirely free and unrestrained in God’s presence, only then does one lead a genuine human life, and only then has one become a person who possesses the truth. In addition, all the truths in your possession have come from God’s words and from God Himself. The Ruler of the entire universe and all things—God Most High—approves of you as a real person living a true human life. What could be more meaningful than God’s approval? This is what it means to be in possession of the truth” (“Only by Pursuing the Truth Can One Achieve a Change in Disposition”).
Through God’s word, I’ve gained some recognition and discernment of my mistaken values and philosophy of life. I am no longer willing to live by the satanic logic and life principle of “Distinguishing oneself and bringing honor to one’s ancestors,” chasing after fame and fortune. I am now willing to pursue the truth, knowledge of God, submission to God and worship of God. Only in so doing can I lead the most valuable and meaningful kind of life! Under the guidance of God’s words, I broke free from the vicious cycle of my fast-paced life. I have a new lease on life and I’ve attained spiritual release and freedom.
In these modern times, the technicolor splendor of the material world seduces and tempts us at every turn. If we do not have the truth as our guide, it is far too easy to lose direction. If you get swept up in the struggle for fame and fortune and carried off from yourself as a riptide takes one from the shore, if you’re unable to escape that feeling of emptiness and pain that accompanies every day of your fast-paced life, why not come before God and listen to His words with your heart? It might be just what you need to break out of your hectic lifestyle and turn over a new leaf.