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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Weekly Snippet: Nothing Else Matters

I just finished reading through Ecclesiastes in my personal Bible reading.  I know that many find the grim tone of Ecclesiastes too depressing, especially in hard times in their lives.  However, I do think it is healthy to read it and take it to heart.  As it says in Proverbs in multiple places (for example, Proverbs 27:6), it is better to be told the truth, however much it hurts, than to have our ears filled with pleasant sounding lies.

Solomon fills our ears with the apparent rule of the earth, which seems to be that life is random and without compassion, and all people come to the same end.  Solomon chronicles the fact that being good doesn't always win you fair or better treatment; being rich doesn't make you happier; working doesn't mean you will receive the kind of advancement you desire; power and influence doesn't assure you victory; and accomplishments today will be forgotten or torn down by others tomorrow.  I am summarizing here, but I would encourage you to read the whole thing for yourself.

If he had stopped there, I'd say Solomon was seriously depressed, and needed to spend some time talking to more cheerful people.  Yet, Solomon didn't stop there.  He issued a verdict:  The only purpose or thing of value in life is God, and the only thing we must do--the only thing worth doing--is serve and obey God (Ecclesiastes 12: 13).  In other words, all of this hopelessness comes from an error in our perception, when we place value in the things of this world, instead of on God and His eternal qualities.

I don't think Solomon was really depressed, but even if he was, we don't have to be.

The Only Thing That Matters

I got into a discussion with two friends Thursday night about life in what one of us dubbed "the gray areas of life," that is, the times when it seems nothing is working or coming to anything, and a whole lot of important things seem to be hanging by a thread.  One shared some counsel she had received from an older and wiser mentor, who encouraged her to face the "what ifs" that make these "gray areas" so hard to endure.  I'll ask my readers to do the same.  What if the thread that our hopes hang from, suddenly gave way? What then?

The answer should be that it wouldn't change much about how we live our lives.  Solomon saw that everything else can be taken away in a heartbeat, except for God, so he declared that God is the only steady point in a shifting world.  In our own lives, that means we should follow suit and take our eyes off of our troubles and fix them firmly on God (Psalm 121: 1, 2).

It is hard to develop the mental attitude that says, "It doesn't matter what happens to me; God is still in control of my life."  I'm not saying it is easy.  Believe me, that's a huge problem I have struggled with today.  It isn't easy, but I know it is the truth.  The reality I see is not the reality of things--it's just temporary.  It gets better, because before, during, and after this life, there is God, and He loves me.  I can't hope in anything in this world, but I can hope in Jesus!
Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73: 25, 26 NIV 2011)