This week, I’ll be tackling a question I’ve had since I was a little kid: How can people live the way that they do? How can they lose everything in their life that matters to them, their wives, their children, their parents, and still continue? How do their lives remain livable? The underlying question is this: How can people act like their lives don’t matter? I welcome comments and thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post and last week’s posts both dealt with questions that I wrestled with when I was younger. As I’ve mentioned before, I must’ve been the most annoying little brat in North America—my why’s, my identity crises, my cold-blooded demand for answers; I was heartless to myself in the way that I dealt with not understanding my purpose.
And, worst, I was the most interactive computer you would have ever seen—meaning that, for all I cared passionately about finding the meaning to the life I’d been given, I didn’t feel a thing. I looked at the world trapped behind a glacier’s edge, insulated in cold cynicism. For all true meanings, dead.
But even with the death of my emotions, I knew that there was one thing that mattered very much to me: Living Well. And that meant that nothing could happen, because if something happened, you couldn’t Live Well anymore. People whose parents died didn’t Live Well. People who were made to be a fool—even once—didn’t Live Well. People who had to take time to heal emotionally, people who felt ill at ease spiritually, people who got their hearts broken, didn’t Live Well.
The course of every one of these people’s lives had changed immutably—they who had once been conquerors had become an army in retreat, forever running from their parents’ ghosts, their disgrace, or their weakness. And, for all my coldness, I never wanted to run.
But I seemed to be surrounded by fools. Little Johnny’s Grandpa died, and he just went in and out and did his business just like normal—maybe he held a little more sadness, but just a touch. Little Suzie’s Mom had cancer and they were struggling to make ends meet—and she walked into class Monday morning smiling, just a picture of peace and joy. Brother Roy’s aunt and uncle were killed in a car accident—but you’d never know it by the grin he wore.
Didn’t these people know their lives were over? Didn’t they know they were broken, that they’d never function the same again, that they’d be running for the rest of their lives? Didn’t they know there was no peace in the world? Didn’t they know ‘healing’ was a joke psychiatrists told to take your money away?
Ecclesiastes—How The World Moves On
Now for thought number two: For the longest time, I wondered why God included Ecclesiastes in the Bible. It was so hopeless! It only parroted the things I’d already (falsely) figured out—life is meaningless, life is joyless, life is toil, life is suffering. Why would God tell us such heartless, dark things? Why would He crush us further?
Well, because they’re true. Life is meaningless—if you search for meaning with man at its center. And even if you search for a God-centered meaning, say, to serve Him and to love Him, then you’re forced to ask why am I serving and loving? What good does it do, what purpose does it serve? Even if I gain pleasure, that fool’s gold for the weak, what good is that to the cosmos? If I’m not the greatest being in the universe, the One capable of making His objects remain forever, then what value do I hold and why do I live?
But remember, beloved: These questions, too, are meaningless.
It could be that God included Ecclesiastes in the Bible to remind us of our blandness in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes, you see, we get a little too spicy, a little too big for our britches, and when that happens we need a good slap in the pants to keep our juices from flying out, see? Or that’s what they tell me. Honestly, it’s never happened to me. I get humble looking at stars—looking at size itself, watching the value of my life diminish incredibly. I don’t get humble when someone tells me life sucks.
I think it’s more likely that God gave us Ecclesiastes in order to keep us meaningless—to keep us true. Think about a meaningless life: No goal. No responsibility. You just are, and what happens happens, and it happens to someone who is you but isn’t you, really. You’re detached, and you’re free. You’re light. You’re airy. Your life is happening around you, but it isn’t your life, it’s a movie you’re watching for a little while. Your life will begin, but you’re not even on the same planet on which that first breath will occur. You’re a citizen of Somewhere Else. And you’re waiting to get home.
That may seem a little extreme, because it is. God doesn’t call us to be shells—God calls us to vitality and rejoicing. But the principle still sticks: The meaningless life of Ecclesiastes is the life lived waiting for something better.
And, for those of us who don’t need an answer to all my why’s, the meaningless life is the life lived humbly, in contentment. The life of Little Johnny, Little Suzie, and Brother Roy.
And now, to combine the two thoughts: Peace is found where my three friends were in their hearts. Life cannot be more important than peace. Where life violates peace is where pain sets in almost invariably, I’ve found. And Who is our peace? Christ. There is none other.
So the point of this article is that the message of Ecclesiastes is true: life sucks, and the farther you can get from it, the more you will succeed—but the only safe route is through the power of God. The farther you reach toward Him and pull away from your life on Earth, the farther you will be protected; the closer towards Earth you hover, the closer you are to your own destruction.
Imagine it this way: see a bubble around yourself. That bubble is What You Need. Make sure that that bubble is skin tight around your body, and yours alone—and what I mean by body is soul here, of course. That’s all that will remain after your death, so make sure it’s all you count on. And make sure God knows that your goal is to make the love of Him and the stewardship of that body your only major responsibilities.
In closing, make your life meaningless in the way Ecclesiastes demonstrates. Make the world a bad dream you’re passing through; make everything you do a waiting game, waiting for the day when you see Christ and your life begins. In that way, submit yourself to God and develop your love for Him, that even your bad dream on Earth will have His glory—and Heaven will be that much richer.
Christ, we need You here. Please come to us and give us Your peace and Your love—I pray that You might fill us. May we only live for You, God. Please take away our idols and please crush our sin from us; please make us new. I pray that our affection for You would be pure and strong all the days of our life, so that when we see You we may have known You here. Please bless us all and keep us all, and help us to love the people around us with the love we’ve first received from You. In Jesus’ name,
Vance8 years ago
You ask some great questions that many people struggle with.
If I may, I would like to point you to an alternate way of looking at Ecclesiastes.