The Mystery of Time
Open Your Bible
Ecclesiastes 3:1-15, John 16:25-33, 1 Corinthians 2:9-10
There’s a word in the German language, sehnsucht, that C.S. Lewis popularized in his book Surprised by Joy. Sehnsucht refers to the yearning and longing our human hearts feel for more, for an unnamed place or the fulfillment of desires that cannot be quenched in this world alone. This Romantic concept was key to Lewis’s eventual belief in Christianity. He often encountered everyday things that evoked this pang of longing, like the smell of a bonfire or the sound of ocean waves, and filled him with an insatiable desire for more that he couldn’t quite explain. It was really the truth behind Ecclesiastes 3:11 that seized him: God has put eternity in our hearts.
Think about that for a moment. Even taking into account what we do know, eternity is a bit of a mystery, isn’t it? From the Old Testament to Revelation, Scripture gives us clues, like tracks in the woods, but not enough to form a complete understanding.
In Scripture, the word eternity refers to the mind-bending truth that God has no beginning and no end, but it can also be used as shorthand for our future life with God—in heaven or in the coming kingdom. We will have the life of God, eternal by its very nature.
But in the same breath, the author also says that “no one can discover the work God has done from beginning to end” (v.11). This statement has always been a little confusing for me. If God put eternity in our hearts, why does He place limitations on our discovery? I want my longing to generate endless insight about what God is up to. Instead, I’m told “no one can discover” what God has done, at least not the full scope of it. There is knowledge He has reserved for His own purposes, which “no eye has seen” and “no human heart has conceived” (1Corinthians 2:9). And so our response to Him must be one of faith.
Although there isn’t anything particularly special about bonfire smoke or sea salt, there are things in this life that catch our attention and draw us toward heaven. For you, it may be the feel of your baby’s hair. For another, maybe the taste of raspberry jam. Whatever it is, Scripture tells us that God has built eternity into the fabric of our hearts and that all creation declares His glory.
But it is still a mystery. God gives us some knowledge, but not enough to discover His full and perfect plan. So, as Christians, we acknowledge that, even if we don’t fully understand what eternity will be like or how time works in the kingdom of God, by faith we believe that God places this longing in us so that we seek and find Him. We pay attention to this “inner knowing” and choose to trust what God has revealed. What we see is not all there is. One day, the veil will be pulled back. Eternity is coming.
Until then, we have crackling bonfires and ocean waves to remind us.