“A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” –Mark Twain
On the surface Ecclesiastes seems dark and gloomy, a book of hopelessness. And even more sobering is the fact that it was written by a genius, the great King Solomon himself. The man who asked God for wisdom over wealth and was given both.
“Now God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore.” (1 Kings 4:20)
By all means, he was the wisest of his time, giving advice and guidance and solving every case that his people brought to him. However, as we read Ecclesiastes we see that not even wisdom or wealth was the answer to true happiness.
“I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:14)
No wonder he was depressed, in his wisdom he saw the earth and its inhabitants through a different set of eyes. He saw men working in the fields day after day, the sweat rolling down their backs, and he watched the women cleaning and baking, preparing for their husbands return from the feilds…the cycle continued with each rise and set of the sun…meaningless.
Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t work, clean, or cook…Solomon isn’t quite done with his rantings. Despite all that is meaningless, he doesn’t let us succumb to the weight of futility entirely.
“So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 8:15)
Enjoy life. Sounds to simple, I feel like I have to strive, struggle, and fight to make every moment of this life meaningful. And yet, “there is nothing new under the sun”, I can’t create a purpose for myself apart from what I was created for. Now notice that Solomon isn’t talking about what we do for God as being meaningless…he speaks only of the human condition, our toiling and most of all our uncanny ability to “waste” time. Anytime we place God on the back burner we place something else on the pedestal. In other words if we aren’t focused on Him and His ultimate fulfilling purpose for our lives, we try to create or replace His design for something else…which of course, leads to us over-working, feeling helpless and utterly unsatisfied with life. How do atheists do it? Well, they chase after the wind, finding temporary fulfillment in earthly things. It’s like taking a drug to curb the symptoms of an illness there is only one remedy for. It might get you through life but are you really living?
Solomon, the wisest man had acquired everything life had to offer..he had many wives, treasure of every kind, an entire kingdom awaiting his commands, and to top it all he had wisdom that secured his reign and respect. To anyone and everyone he was living the ultimate dream of success….and yet looking at it all he saw that it was all meaningless. What are earthly treasures but things that will someday rot and decay. What man-made legacy could ever survive the test of time?
Lately I have been reminded again and again that I can’t slow time, life and death are inevitable truths. But enjoying the time in between the two…well, that is a choice. God didn’t create us to toil in suffering under the sun until we die. We are His beloved remember? Set apart from the animals and yet even they live life abundantly. Every morning I walk outside and see birds with full bellies nesting in the trees, rabbits playing by the tree line, bees collecting nectar from flowers of every color. Is not what they are doing meaningless? And yet, God saw it fit that they play, eat, and drink just as we do. He loves caring for them but most of all He loves that they are free, content in the world He created. And we are His prized possession! How much more do you think He cares for our contentment and joy? He is our Father…He cares for us physically and spiritually. He doesn’t just fix us breakfast in the morning but asks us how we are doing. He doesn’t just bind our wounds but holds us in His arms and wipes away our tears.
My uncle celebrates his 65th wedding anniversary tomorrow, he suffers from COPD and doesn’t have a lot of time left, I visited him in the hospital the other day and despite his fear and sadness of what lies ahead, he told me that he had a good life…in other words, that he enjoyed his life. And then he told me to go home, fix up our new house in the country, and enjoy every minute of it. I have heard the same thing said by two other people recently, both going through struggles I can’t even imagine, and both having lived a long life. Through their life experiences they have come to the same conclusion as Solomon…life is a gift from God, not a curse…and like any gift, it was made to be enjoyed.
So I could get caught up in the pain and useless toiling of the world around me…or I could live abundantly in joy. Seeing each day that I get to live as a gift…and each day I come closer to the inevitable end…as one step closer home.
It’s really that simple. No matter what you are going through, whether you are on cloud nine or feeling as though you are going to sink…there is always something to be thankful for….that’s the beauty of being a Christian…I could have nothing but still have everything, Jesus is all I need.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him, and even though you do not see him now you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” -1 Peter 1:8-9