“‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’” —Ecclesiastes 1:2
Have you ever felt that way? We can read this first chapter of Ecclesiastes in its entirety and it doesn’t get any lighter. The writer does a better than great job of relating exactly what’s on his mind. In addition, I get the impression that the Teacher had known what it was like to work hard toward a hoped outcome, maybe even an expected outcome, only to see what he thought would surely come to pass fall by the wayside.
I’ve had these days more often than I care to admit. I prepare, plan, and work toward something I want with an expected outcome. It could be something as simple as a date with my wife. Or, it could be as stressful as a project at work. Maybe, it’s more intricate and time consuming than even that; it could be a novel. Whatever it is, I want it done my way, and for the results to be wonderful everytime. But, that’s not how life is.
Instead, life likes to throw us curveballs. Things don’t go as planned. Expected events happen. People can be mean. And, bad news can be the hardest to get past.
“What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted.” —Ecclesiastes 1:15
I’m not sure which of these verses sound more desperate. The first takes away reason for being in says all is meaningless, while verse 15 paints the picture of hopelessness. When we try to do good things, like a date night for the wife, a hard day’s labor, or writing a novel, don’t we expect it to be an improvement on our present status and yield a bountiful fruit of sorts? Instead, the wisest king to rule over Israel says we can’t do it. And, what he says relays that the deficiencies are endless! He sounds like the kind of person that most of us try to avoid. However, knowing who he was, I find myself feeling as though I must listen and take what he had to say to heart. So, do I accept my faults and stop trying?
The Teacher continues by explaining that he sought out pleasures. He buried himself in work. He increased his knowledge. He laughed and had a good time. He drank wine. He even wrote a Beatles song 3,000 years before they were born. 🙂
He continues to take notice of the lonely and oppressed and observes that wealth and riches are meaningless. The rich and the poor alike meet the same fate in the end. So, what’s the point, or am I simply ranting on uselessly because I’ve had a rough day?
After considering what is written, I must admit that it’s all true. But, that’s the point, isn’t it? We aren’t enough. We are insufficient. If we weren’t, Christ would not have had to die for us. Does that mean we stop trying? No! Here the words of Solomon as he concludes his findings.
“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” —Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
In conclusion, perhaps you’ve had a less than stellar day, week, month, or even year. Maybe your plans for life aren’t working out quite the way you planned. (There’s more to read on that in Ecclesiastes.) That’s okay. We don’t have to be perfect. Where our inadequacies create a chasm between who we are and who we want to be, God makes a way. Probably not in our time. But, experience tells me His timing is better, and that His plans are, too. Trust in Him.