A Strange Path To Contentment In Ecclesiastes
Considering much of the content in Ecclesiastes I truly didn’t expect to find any contentment there. In fact, Ecclesiastes is built on the discontentment of Solomon’s life experiences so expecting to find words of comfort is just unreasonable. Upon examining life “under the sun” Solomon expresses that this world is infinitely messed up (Ecc 1:15), the more you know the more painful this reality becomes (Ecc 1:18) and in light of these realities “all is vanity.” Solomon’s preaching in this book isn’t exactly sunshine and rainbows, it’s the type of preaching you’d be tempted tune out.
Tuning out a Debbie-downer message from the pulpit is one thing but this stuff is in the Bible. What do we do with it? If we pluck verses out of this book to share as we do with others then people may worry we’re suicidal. Solomon’s preaching that we’re all on a pointless pursuit of purpose in this reality “under the sun” because that purpose we’re looking for here… isn’t here at all, that’s what makes the pursuit all vanity or enigmatic.
Yet, this is why Solomon’s message strangely brings us contentment because deep down we’re all thinking “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” to quote Bono. Nothing in this world ever seems to be enough to bring lasting satisfaction. What will woo us one moment will bore us in the next. We always think we’re one “step,” “thing” or “change” closer to fulfillment but once we arrive, obtain or make that change we inevitably feel something is still lacking in some way and the cycle repeats. So as Solomon would say, “What’s the point of stepping in any direction, obtaining any thing or changing any circumstance at all in light of this reality?”
"What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?”
Frozen in these conundrums is exactly where Ecclesiastes wants you to be, Solomon has you right where he wants you. No matter your position, circumstance or socioeconomic status in life you lack the same purpose and meaning that everybody else does, this all coming from a guy who had it all. In other words, despite Solomon’s seemingly superior vantage point in life, I’m in the same predicament as him in my pursuit of meaning. Asking this world to give me meaning is a request it’s incapable of fulfilling.
Meaninglessness is yet another reality I feel the gospel rescues us from. Knowing His creation would fall Jesus determined before the foundation of the world that He would enter it and give it meaning (Acts 2:23). Jesus rescues His children from the despairs of this fallen reality and gives them purpose. He redeems our meaninglessness and gives us a life worth living. My life isn’t about my toil it’s about all of His toil. It’s not about my ability, righteousness, or trivial pursuits. Life is about what Christ has done, His righteousness, His atonement and His purposes for His creation. This new reality preaches to my soul that it is all of His toil that gives meaning and purpose to mine. Ecclesiastes is a strange path to gospel-contentment but it’s one I’m thankful to be marinating in.
Therefore as Paul says:
“…whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
“…whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
1 Corinthians 10:31
I pray the book of Ecclesiastes is a tremendous blessing to you,
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