Hope for the Forever Empty

Hope for the Forever Empty

Perhaps you’ve seen the clip, or perhaps you’ve heard conversations ‘round the Internet’s water cooler (Facebook). But here’s the scoop in case you haven’t: A few weeks ago comedian Louis C.K. offered a brilliant, albeit colorful, rant on how smartphones are impacting our culture.

“You need to build the ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away. The ability to just sit there.”

Instead of being present, we text, tweet, update statuses, and, in the end, miss out. We’ve grown so accustomed to not looking at people when we talk to them that we might not even notice that they’re missing out too.

What exactly is the payoff in staying plugged in, yet disconnected? Louis C.K. suggests it’s to avoid the realization that “underneath everything, there’s that thing: that forever empty…that knowledge that it’s all for nothing and you’re all alone.” Pretty depressing if that’s your worldview. I’ll take scrolling Reddit over sitting in that sad state any day.

In contrast, the Christian perspective offers an optimistic worldview. In his upcoming book, Christian Endgame, philosopher and theologian Ken Samples writes,

The good news is that Jesus Christ is hope incarnate. His incomparable life in this time-space world testifies to the goodness and value of being made in the image of God. Christ’s atoning death on the cross of Calvary instills confidence to believe that God loves sinners and has indeed forgiven the sin that weighs on the human conscience. Jesus’ amazing bodily Resurrection from the grave gives assurance that not even physical death can crush a living hope in God.

This promise of Christ’s Second Coming ought to permeate a believer’s life—especially those quiet, still moments—with joyful hope of being in His presence, which is the ultimate connection. On the other hand, Ken is quick to clarify that “It is possible to become so preoccupied with future things that one neglects one’s responsibilities in this present age.” In other words, believers are not in the clear to Candy Crush our lives away simply because our real life begins in the new creation.

I recall a moving panel discussion from the Inhabit conference in New York last week. Andrea Lippke, a Brooklyn-based editor and writer and mom, talked about time being “sliced so thin” she could see to the next moment. I know the feeling. Chances are you do, too. The ability to “just sit there” is a lost art when there are clothes to fold and meetings to attend and notification alerts to answer.

Andrea shared how a look from her daughter set everything into perspective. “Be here now, mama,” her daughter’s eyes pleaded. The visual picture hit harder than a loss in Words with Friends and left me wondering how God, too, wants us to be present in the here and now.

If hope in Christ shouts louder in the quiet moments, why not invite them a bit more often by unplugging and reconnecting with God and with those around us? In contrast to that “forever empty” feeling, believers experience hope in this life that we are promised eternity with Christ, being “forever full” in the next life.

As Ken puts it, this future hope “can fuel believer’s passion to begin the everlasting worship service now.” Maybe then we can find deeper appreciation for “future things” and, better yet, share the hope we have with those struggling with the “forever empty” feeling. Assuming we can put our phones down for a second.



Christian Endgame: Careful Thinking about the End Times by Kenneth Samples (Releases November 2013)

“Thinking about ‘Future Things,’” 12-part series