In the second part of the two part look at Ecclesiastes we will be observing two things, the storms of life, and joy. In the first part, we saw the writer deconstruct the world views which are focused on earthly gain and pleasures. He did this by showing that in the grand scheme of things nothing physical has any lasting meaning or value. After placing us into a pit of despair, the author then points to eternity and says, get to know him! He says that only a relationship with God can provide eternal meaning, to an otherwise meaningless universe. (Go check out the last post http here for more details). This reality of a spiritual and eternal world, which we can have some interaction with, provides a lot of comfort and meaning to life (at least it does for me).
However, I can’t help but notice that I live on earth, and I have to spend a lot of my time doing physical things, which don’t last forever. Because of this, I think that the next question to ask would be, what physical things are worth my time while I live here under the sun? Let’s see what the writer has to say.
“And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.”
Now if you are like me, then this answer (for what’s good to do with life) was not really satisfying. There’s just something that feels completely unfair about it. It’s almost like he’s saying, “our situation here is completely pointless, so yeah, just kill time”. This answer, for the longest time, bothered me and this unsatisfaction lead me to two questions.
The first was, why would God place us in a world where not even the good things can truly satisfy us?
And the second question was, if there is no real value in our physical world why would God create trials and suffering? Doesn’t that seem cruel?
I think that C.S. Lewis, provides a great answer to the first question, so here is it.
“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
The reason I like this answer so much is that it places the question into a proper framework. When you consider the earth to be your one and only true home, the fact that nothing here satisfies is a bit of a bummer. However, the Bible tells us that we are living in a world which we are, in fact, not created for. From that perspective, it’s not surprising that we find it unsatisfying.
Now when it comes to the, “Why do we suffer”? Question. I admit I’m not qualified to tackle it. Because of that, I would like to take a look a perspective on suffering from someone who is. Her name is Annie J. Flint, and this is part of her perspective on suffering, from her hymn, He Giveth More Grace.
“When we have exhausted our store of endurance
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our resources,
Our fathers full giving is only begun.”
This woman spent a large portion of her life in great pain. Another person, who I can think of, who went through great suffering is Job. Annie and Job, went through things, which the majority of us will never even have a nightmare about, and yet both of them thanked God at the end. Now I’m not going to say that I have “the whole answer”, as to why they did this. However, I have found that the times in which I grow the most, spiritually, personally, and mentally, are the times when I am going through some kind of suffering; with God in the picture. I can’t help but think that this is part of what Annie Flint was talking about when she said: “our fathers full giving has only begun”. I believe that God allows us to go through trials and troubles so that we can grow. This idea is seen in James 1:2-4,
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Ecclesiastes puts it like this,
“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.”
At the start of this, I said that Ecclesiastes 8:15 (Joy is the best thing for man under the sun), bothered me. I think that it’s important to point out that the reason I thought it was so unfair, was because I was focused on finding meaning in the physical. I wanted God in my life, however I wanted him to stay in church. I have found that this, mentality, is very limited. At the end of the day you can find joy without God, but you won’t find it in most things you do and the question of meaning will still be answered. When you allow God to be a part of your life, whatever you let him take part in, becomes complete. You realize that Storms have a purpose, joy is a gift that can be found everywhere, and life never ends, this is one of the reasons why I think Jesus said in John 10:10 that,
“I came they may have life and have it abundantly”.
I think that this is the big point the writer of Ecclesiastes is making. That the only life worth living is a life, which is touching eternity.
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