Studying Ecclesiastes often stresses people out. King Solomon writes about how nothing on Earth satisfied him. He was one of the richest people in recorded history. He had countless wives, access to the world’s most coveted foods, and more wealth than he knew what to do with.
And still he said, “This isn’t enough. This isn’t worth it.”
One of Solomon’s recurring themes in Ecclesiastes can be summed up in Ecc. 5: 18-20, where he writes, “Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.”
Among all of Solomon’s teachings on how things of this world never bring the joy they promise, he says there are a few things that areworth it:
- Work: The first thing God did after creating man was put him to work (Genesis 2:15, 19-20). He didn’t do it out of punishment—it was so Adam had something to do. This year I’ve learned how much I hate not doing anything and I know many others who have learned the same. This makes sense. It’s our natural setting to do, to make, and to create. In fact, we’re supposed to take joy in it! This can be your job, school, a hobby, or a ministry that God has called you to. We are called to enjoy our work and what it produces: food, money, coworkers, travel… anything that doesn’t get between you and your relationship with the Lord.
- Relationships: One of the most popular passages in Ecclesiastes is Ecc. 4: 9-12, the passage about “a three-strand chord is not easily broken.” This passage is usually read at weddings, but it applies to platonic friendship and familial love as well. Relationships where God is the centerpiece are what drive Christians to be more like Christ. Seeing the glory of God in other people is one of the most humbling things we can experience. It’s no wonder Solomon says these relationships are one of the things that bring us true joy!
- Wisdom: Solomon says that wisdom is better than physical strength and “the words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that rules among fools” (Ecc. 9: 16-17). Almost all of his teachings in the Bible are about wisdom, so it was clearly important to him. Beyond that, he rejoiced in the wisdom he received by the grace of God. The same wisdom is also granted to us. James writes: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). This goes beyond a knowledge of the Bible and a grasp on theology; wisdom is more about your heart than your head. For once, many of us have nowhere to be most days. We’ve always said we “don’t have time” for in-depth prayer or Bible study. What’s our excuse now? Why can’t we reach out and grasp the wisdom and joy we’re being offered?
It goes without saying that 2020 has not gone according to plan. If you’re anything like me, this unpredictability has upset you more than you’d like to admit. I had a specific way I wanted my final year of undergrad to go, and it certainly wasn’t this way.
In spite of that, I would be remiss to ignore all the good things that have happened in 2020. I’ve seen countless friends get married, have kids, or get their dream jobs. My family is finally all on the East Coast for the first time in three years. I adopted a cat!
I know many of us are too worried about mourning the past or anticipating the future to focus on the here and now. If you’re working from home, doing class online, or even just living at home for the holidays, you have time. You don’t have the social engagements that you had back in the day.
Here’s a challenge for you this week:
- Make a list of the “work” that brings you joy and drives you closer to the Lord. Is there a job you want but have been too scared to apply for? Fill out the application. Is there a hobby you want to pick up? Do the research! Do you feel like the Lord is calling you to a specific area of ministry? Find someone in that field to disciple you. Reach out to us to get you connected to someone. Use these opportunities to let the Lord use you, grow you, and teach you.
- Talk to someone you love every day. Don’t just text them. Pick up the phone and talk to them. Exchange prayer requests and pray over the phone. Plan a time to sit down and video chat while you read a few chapters of the Bible and talk about it. Take joy in these relationships that God has blessed you with, even if you’re separated.
- Find a span of a few hours throughout the week to really get in touch with God. Take a half hour a day before you go to bed or when you wake up or set aside a few hours one day to read through a chunk of scripture you’ve been wanting to read. Start by praying and asking God to speak to you and show you the areas of your life where you need His intervention. Pick a few chapters to start with (Ecclesiastes, if you want something to make you reassess your life choices; one of the gospels if you want to learn how to be more like Christ; one of the smaller New Testament epistles to deepen your understanding of the spiritual walk; one of the history books in the Old Testament if you want to learn the cultural importance of Christ’s work in our lives). Keep a journal of what questions you have, what verses stick out to you, or whatever prayer concerns you want to focus on.
Years from now, when someone asks how “horrible” 2020 was, I want to be able to turn it around and focus on the good things that God did. I want to pinpoint this year as a year that God had full control over my life. I want to speak with some of you who may be reading this and hear all the things that God did in your lives.
Life may feel like it’s come to a stand-still, or like it’s going too fast. Whatever the case, there’s no reason we can’t give these days to the Lord, embrace the joy set before us in Christ, and seize the day!