Since high school, I had been aware of the emptiness deep within me. If it is true that entertainment, achievements, and human relationships are enough to suffice man, I really should not have felt that way: I had all these things. I loved my activities, did well in my classes, and had many good friends. Most of my days were filled with learning, fun, and laughter. There was hardly anything to be unhappy about. Life was smooth; perhaps it would always be so. Why not? I could be a good person, create colorful experiences, and with some effort, earn money and status as well. The notion of a good life had always seemed clear to me and was within my reach.
Yet despite my good life, I often felt empty. And the emptiness was most disturbing when I would stop to really think how pointless everything seemed to be. Many times I spent hours preparing for exams, only to find that none of them carried any significance once they were over. I spent days organizing school events, only to realize that no one cared after they had ended. I devoted much time to friends and family, only to find that my importance to most of them was small and fluctuated with their moods, priorities, and circumstances, all of which were beyond my control. Eat well, sleep well, be good, and be happy...was that all there was to life? I asked myself how these goals differentiated people from animals in essence and in purpose. What was left of these things after they were over? If nothing, then what made them worthy of all my time and energy?
The world's gains and happiness felt like bubbles—beautiful but empty, hard to control, and fast-disappearing. Everything was ephemeral. No matter how stable things seemed, I knew that if I were ever to break my routine—not to work so hard in school, not to be as nice, not to continue to set and to meet higher and higher goals—I would lose everything. Every effort to keep up led to more expectations to live up to and more relationships over which to labor, to the point that all my time and energy were fully consumed. But what was the point? Something seemed wrong; something was missing.
I approached this problem methodically. At first, I thought the problem might be that I was not balancing work with enough play. So I graduated early from high school to spend a semester traveling and visiting new places. But travel memories soon fade and places change; I'd gained more experiences but not lost my emptiness.
Then I thought perhaps the problem was that I had too many priorities and not enough dedication to any one particular thing. So, during breaks from school, I poured my whole being into two different exchange programs, thereby making them two of the most intellectually and personally satisfying activities in my life. But programs end and the friendships formed in them scatter. I still did not lose my emptiness.
During my time alone on a trip in China, I tried to assess what I lacked. When I looked at the poor people around me, I could not figure out what other outward blessings I could ask for. I had so much more than an average Chinese person had. Yet all these outward things failed to give me a clear sense of life's purpose. How could I maintain my trust in the empty promise of outward abundance? What point was there in asking for more? So even after my time alone and away, my emptiness remained.
Following each failure to find the source of my emptiness, I questioned whether the emptiness was real. Perhaps I was just ungrateful because I got so many things for free. Perhaps I was just having these thoughts because I had too much excess time and energy. So I tried to be very grateful and busy—almost to the point of silliness. I flooded my schedule and made an effort to appreciate every object and event that came my way. It did not take long for me to see how ridiculous this was. How could I pretend to be so thankful for and involved in things in which I could not see any purpose?
Despite the futility of my search for satisfaction, my external life continued to appear problem-free. But it was not easy. Expectations from everywhere arose constantly, and honoring them sometimes required that I appear nicer and better than I really was. Sometimes I would just sit back and be amazed at how far away I was from ever reaching the goals people had thought I had already attained. The image and the labels that were assigned to me often did not feel real. Yet without them, I was not sure who I was. Amidst pressure to study and plan my future, I felt that there was a bigger, even more unknown problem to be resolved.
It was at this juncture in my life that I unexpectedly heard about Jesus Christ from a friend. He told me that he believed in Jesus, that we could use our spirit to contact God, and that the Lord Jesus Christ is our source of joy. At the time, I really was not sure how to respond to his words. I respected my friend but hardly understood what he told me. Contacting God? A part of me called the spirit? If these things were real and what he said true, I reasoned, surely I would have heard of them at some point in my education. But I had not. God seemed too obscure to be relevant to my problems. Plus, I told my friend, I simply could not will myself into believing in something in which I did not believe. The conversation seemed to be going nowhere, and I told my friend that although I respected what he had to say, I could neither understand nor appreciate what I heard. How could I be sure that God even existed? I asked God to reveal Himself to me that night, only to feel silly for talking into thin air.
Months passed before I spoke to that friend again. In the interim, I got a little more knowledge about Christ and a lot more scared about my lingering emptiness. For the first time in a long while, I had no plans. I did not know what to do next or even whether I would be able to go on as I had before to without seeing a purpose to what I did. Never had I been lost to the point of not knowing what I wanted or needed, how to figure things out, where to ask for help, and what kind of help to ask for. I was scared. But I never associated this lack of direction with the need for God.
Things turned worse when my summer project soured. I felt badly over my contribution to the mess and for my irresponsibility and lack of motivation. I could not even imagine what I would do if my emptiness were to manifest itself in other ways. I shared some of my frustrations with my friend when he came to talk to me again. His response was just, "You need God." My friend shared about his enjoyment of Christ, what Christ meant to him, and what Christ had done for him. There was so much sincerity in the way he spoke; I had never met anyone who spoke that way about God before. He had to have experienced something genuine to speak the way he did.
Still, I had many questions. What could God do for me? How would I get God? If I could not get God, then why recognize my need for Him? The human mind can be so complex, but my friend just asked me to call on the Lord with him:
"O Lord Jesus. O Lord Jesus. I am a sinner and I need You to come into me..."
I repeated after my friend—desperate, but highly dubious about this simple solution. I did not experience anything extraordinary that night, but my friend encouraged me to call on the Lord Jesus again in my own time.
In the following days, I did call on the Lord. After many seemingly unanswered prayers, I experienced Christ on a flight home. I called on Him, and when I did, I experienced a gush of living water flowing out of my innermost being. When I called on the Lord's name, I gained a taste of satisfaction that I had never known. Deep within, I knew that this would fill my emptiness. The answer to my search for life's purpose was just that I needed to be restored to God and to be filled with Him. "O Lord Jesus!" It was such a simple and sufficient answer to all my needs. He is so amazing to me.
Just ask God to reveal Himself to you, just call on His name, and you will never be the same. You will never have to be empty and perishing again. I have tasted this and can testify that it is true. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that every one who believes into Him would not perish, but would have eternal life" (John 3:16). I am so happy that this is true! I am so happy that there is a better life than even my former good life.
If you wish to be born anew to receive the divine life of God, simply open your heart and pray,
Lord Jesus, I realize my need to be born of God. Thank You that Your precious blood cleanses me of my sins. Thank You that I can receive the divine life, which You made available to me in Your resurrection. Lord Jesus, I receive You as the divine life right now. Thank You that in addition to my human life, I now have the life of God. I love You, Lord Jesus!