9 What do people really get for all their hard work? 10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 12 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. 13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.
Face it. Sometimes life just sucks. Even Solomon, wise as he was, was fond of saying how meaningless life can be. Now if the wisest man on earth can question what the point of life is, how bad can it be that we wonder the same thing on a regular basis?
Ahhh, but Solomon was wise for a reason. He could ponder these things, and although in the first couple of pages of Ecclesiastes it looks like he may be drowning in the abyss of depression, he doesn't stay there indefinitely.
As I began reading, it seems to me that Solomon is pretty old. Of course, "old" is a relative term when it comes to Solomon, because if the Jewish encyclopedia is correct and he really became king at the age of 12, then he was only 52 when he died. Even if that source is wrong, and Biblical scholars are right, he didn't live much past 60, so either way, it's not like he was ancient or anything.
But he'd lived a very full life, a life of untold riches and privilege, and was famous throughout the world for his unsurpassed wisdom... until he got stupid at the end, and started worshiping the idols of his wives, instead of obeying God. That may be when he started questioning the meaning of life. At that point, his must have really sucked, because this sums up his outlook in the first two chapters (ad-libbed by me, of course):
What good is it for people to bust their butts trying to earn a living? What do we get out of it? No matter what we do, or how much we attain, we're never satisfied. Nothing is new, history just keeps repeating itself, and we never learn from our mistakes. The next generation won't remember the lessons we learned, and will be just as stupid as we have been, which is just as stupid as the generation before.
And what is the point of all this wisdom I've been given? It can't undo the wrongs that have been done, it can't recover what has been lost. All it does is make me see life more clearly. The wiser I get, the more depressed I get.
Even pleasure is an exercise in futility. No matter how hard we look for the good things in life, they just come back to bite us in the butt. For a while I enjoyed building architectural wonders, growing beautiful gardens, I loved music, and I loved women. But now it just all seems so meaningless, pointless, worthless. So I decided to tie one on, had a little too much wine, acted a bit like an idiot in front of everyone. I would say I embarrassed myself, but I really don't remember. Well, that's the only happiness most people in life are able to experience, so why not me? Yeah, I learned real quick that wasn't such a wise idea. Remind me to write a proverb about hangovers.
Seriously, what do people get out of life? They work, they sleep, they work, they sleep. By day, they worry that they won't earn enough to pay the bills, by night they're so exhausted and achy that they can't get their brains to turn of and rest.And then it hit him. Like a candle being lit inside a dark house on a stormy night, the flame flickering, waning, then suddenly lighting up the whole room, the meaning of life zoomed into focus. Well, ok, maybe not the meaning, because it's all meaningless as far as he's concerned.. I guess it's more accurate to say he figured out the key to being happy in a meaningless life.
So I decided to quit sulking and enjoy my food, my drink, and find satisfaction in my work. And then I realized that these simple pleasures are God's gift to us. Whoa, what a concept! God gives wisdom, and pleasure, to those that care about pleasing Him! (Ecc. 2:24-26)
There's nothing better than for a person to be happy with what he does for a living. So since working is necessary for survival, make sure you like the profession you've chosen! And if you don't like it, then find one that you can enjoy. Ya know, that's what we're here for; to enjoy life! Nobody is going to bring us back from the grave after we've died to enjoy what we accomplished while we were here, so we need to take life by the horns and enjoy it now! (Ecc.3:22) Whether you're rich or poor, accept your lot in life and enjoy what you do for a living. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they won't have time to be depressed.
But be careful not to become OCD about stuff. You can really drive yourself crazy by trying to over-analyze everything or trying to always be perfect. That's an extreme that is every bit as dangerous as being super-naughty. Both will lead you to an early grave, so just take it easy, because if you really love God, you're going to avoid both extremes. (Ecc. 3:16-18)
And don't forget to love with all your heart. Live happily with the woman you love through all the meaningless days of life that God has given you, because the wife God gives you is your reward for all your hard work. (Ecc. 9:9) And don't wait til you're old and grey like me to remember who is the giver of life, the source of any happiness you might find. Honor Him while you're still young enough to enjoy all that He has to offer. Do it now, because that is your job! HE is the whole point of life.
Quite a turn-around in his way of thinking, huh? From utter despair to enthusiasm! But why? What brought about that change? It was the realization that when we shut God out of our lives, there is no hope. But when we strive to please God, He becomes the source of our joy.
When life seems pointless, only God can give it meaning.