Ecclesiastes. I will venture a bet it’s not a book in the Old Testament too many of you have read. I know I haven’t. But, it’s quickly moving up the list. And, believe it or not, it does tie into Thankful Thursday.
The Old Testament book doesn’t dance around the hard questions of life, but doesn’t provide easy answers either. In many ways, the author (believed to be King Solomon) takes on a viewpoint about the meaninglessness of life. The author of the book believes life is temporary and fleeting like a breath, smoke or vapor….and it’s meaningless in the end to spend our time in search of the temporary. That the pleasures of this world are not supposed to be the “it” that fills our lives with meaning or purpose.
His point? In the end, everything in life vanishes when the dust of death blows through our lives. We need to learn how to appreciate the NOW of our lives NOW because it will all be taken from us in the end.
Life is unpredictable. Entrepreneur and I are keenly aware of this. The pressures we put on ourselves in this life, like the heavy snow we had in January, can weigh us down to the point where it’s hard to appreciate and enjoy our temporary and fleeting life. Like heavy snow, we pile on expectation after expectation of what we think life should be like….what we want life to be like…what we think we need in order to make us happy. All the time chasing after the next shiny new thing in hopes IT will make a difference in our how happy and content we are with life.
And then, when we least expect it, a storm blows in, we’re flung into a snowbank, and everything changes.
We break. Our expectation that the universe owes us a happy life, filled with all things wonderful is suddenly shattered. Those tertiary things we were chasing after, thinking we were somehow owed them, disappear in a vapor of disappointment. And what’s left is the wreckage. Sometimes major wreckage.
We all have our breaking point. Many of our trees found their breaking point under the heavy snow layered on their branches. And the extent of the damage was really only seen in full after the initial assault had passed. When we try to carry the weight of unrealistic expectations, there will be a point in time where we break as well. Whether it’s expectations about relationships, job success, accomplishments or finances, we all fall into the trap of comparing our lives to others and wishing for more. And when it doesn’t happen, we break just like that weakened tree limb heavy-laden with snow.
Depressing stuff, huh? But the author of Ecclesiastes doesn’t let us wallow in despair for long. He offers wisdom that encourages us to understand the temperance of this human life, and not obsess over unrealistic expectations. We should accept our human condition has its limitations, but fully enjoy the gifts given to us while we’re here. To be content with gratitude for what we have; tasting, seeing and feeling the good things of life…understanding the things of this world are temporary.
Ecclesiastes teaches us how to live meaningfully, purposefully and joyfully, thanking God for the gifts he’s given us while we’re on this earth….knowing there is so much more waiting for us after this life. We should stop chasing the wind for our happiness and be content in God’s providence. What is does not mean is we shouldn’t explore and discover new things about ourselves and our world. This is not a blind acceptance of the status quo or an excuse not to be good stewards of what we’ve been given. It’s a heart issue about realizing this life is not the IT we’re yearning for.
Interwoven through the book is a balance between our expectations of this unpredictable life and God’s promise of life eternal for those who put their faith in him.
This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart. ~Ecclesiastes 5:18-20