The birds-eye view allows us to see what Solomon (Qoheleth) meant when he said “everything is meaningless” in the book of Ecclesiastes. It seems so contradictory to who God is. It seems odd that Solomon (Qoheleth) would say it in his older years after so much success and closeness with God. As I explored the scripture, I found it to be insightful through a tough time, as odd and disconnected from God as it appears.
Not just as we grow older in our chronological age, but as we realize our limits with chronic illness and/or trauma in our lives, we can make a bit more sense out of the odd words of Solomon (Qoheleth).
There is some debate over Who Wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes. It has been identified that Qoheleth wrote it, but we are not certain that was Solomon. In the very least, the author intended the reader to think of Solomon’s experiences. For the sake of ease in reading this blog, we will refer to the author as Solomon (Qoheleth).
Solomon (Qoheleth) accomplished great things through God’s anointing, also had great sin, like all of us humans. Upon reflection on his life, Solomon (Qoheleth) had some interesting words brought forth through Ecclesiastes. Solomon (Qoheleth) ruminates over everything being so meaningless.
Can you identify with Solomon’s (Qoheleth’s) words? I know I did in the depths of isolation, long lasting illness and moments of complete examination of my own life. His words rang so true that they felt more like my words.
No, not his words of all that he had accomplished. His “great” things were far beyond my humble existence. God did not anoint me in the same way and did not work through me in the same ways. Yet the “meaninglessness” of life during this time of reflection clung to my heart strings. Not sure I wanted them there.
The great and wise King David would seem to agree with the words in Ecclesiastes.
“Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;
in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
without knowing whose it will finally be.” ~ Psalm 39:6 NIV
A Time for Everything
There is a timefor everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NIV
We are not meant to be stagnant, there is a time for everything. As we are forced to proceed through our meaningless lives, we can find joy and the purpose God has set forth for us.
I know I have seen all of these contrasts in a time for everything. I know the joys of some and the despair in others. I know that all of them have pointed me right back to God and not the answers of man. The answers of man keeps me in the meaninglessness of life, chasing my tail in darkness.
Time for me to sort this out the best I can at the moment. Time for the Holy Spirit to reveal truth. I know as a fact that life cannot be meaningless because God says so, or did he?? Life can truly be meaningless, but humans are not. The human experience of life here on earth is not meaningless in Christ. Yet God did tell us through his Word that the human experience on earth is meaningless.
As we are created in him, we have meaning because of him, for him and in him…
“So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.” ~ Genesis 1:27 NIV
Our lives have meaning, for him, only when we walk in his steps…
“Lord, I know that people’s lives are not their own;
it is not for them to direct their steps.” ~ Jeremiah 10:23 NIV
We cannot be worthless because God made us…
“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” ~ John 1:3 NIV
Therefore our lives can have purpose, for the glory of God, even though it is not the action of the life that has value, it is the living it out in Christ that gives it fruit…
“4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” ~ John 15:4-5 NIV
Okay, so I can see how our lives are meaningless for the sake of a life lived here on earth. It is only through Christ that my life has any meaning, and it is all for him, not me.
So why the heck does Ecclesiastes ring so true to my ears?
Meaninglessness of Life
Because OUR life is truly meaningless. It is. It is a joke. It is endless years chasing our tails. We get NO WHERE.
It is only when Christ takes over our lives that we can begin to find meaning and value. And it only appears in glory for God. Not even Solomon’s life could stand on it’s own. Even his life was meaningless without God.
I can accept that. I can deal with that. I can someday go to my grave on that. I can live out the remaining days of my life on that. I enjoy eternal salvation on that.
It again takes the focus off of me and puts it on God. My life needs to be about God, not me. How many dang lessons is this going to take me to get????? I get it, then I dip right back into the depths of yuck and muck and the complete worthlessness of life.
Maybe Ecclesiastes will help me place “life” in a better perspective because it truly is meaningless. That places the blame on me, not God. I need to get the focus off of life, more on God. Haven’t I already gone down this path a hundred thousand times? Yes, but each time, I get it more and more.
God-Centered Life is Meaningful
The message of Ecclesiastes seems to be about the pursuit of a life with God, not man. Keeping our meaningless lives centered on him is the only thing that appears to have any meaning. It certainly is the only thing of eternal value.
We will not be able to find any pleasure or happiness that can be sustained without God. We can enjoy the blessings along the way, on this ride of a meaningless life but they are not what has the true value. I love this reminder to be happy in the good times, and accept the bad, God has made both…
“When times are good, be happy;
but when times are bad, consider this:
God has made the one
as well as the other.
Therefore, no one can discover
anything about their future.” ~ Ecclesiastes 7:14
Adversity is not enjoyable, but it can help make us the people of faith we ought to be.
Chronic illness, trauma, abuse, shame, all adversity is worth the experience. It can help us grow in our faith when we let it. Using Ecclesiastes helps me in my moments of whining and then reminds me that God’s purpose is all that matters, not this meaningless life.
Conclusion on the Matter
There are no words of conclusion on the matter better than God’s…
“13 Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.” ~ Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 NIV
Can you accept that life is “meaningless?” Do you accept God’s conclusion on the matter? Are you being nourished by and growing in God’s word?
Maribeth Baxter, MBNC (Certified Mind-Body Nourishment Coach)
Dig Deeper, Grow More – Read Ecclesiastes in its entirety