Ecclesiastes is a cheerful book, isn’t it? EVERYTHING ABOUT LIFE IS POINTLESS!!!
Except that isn’t exactly what he is saying. At least, I don’t read it that way.
If you live for indulgence, you’ll enjoy it, sure, but it won’t mean anything. If you live for ‘success,’ it’s all temporary, might be inherited by entitled losers who don’t deserve it, and you won’t even have time to enjoy it while you live anyway, so it too won’t mean anything. And yeah, you can study all you want, but your life will be just as random and meaningless as the idiots of the world, so what’s the point of that?
But then, after the poem that says there’s a season for everything, an appropriate time for all the things we view as negative as well as those we view as positive, there’s this verse:
“He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they life; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil – this is God’s gift to man.”
It isn’t the first time he says that his conclusion is simple: enjoy your life and your work, but it is the fullest explanation of it (at least so far.)
I think that first bit, “he has put eternity into man’s heart,” is very telling. I think this is the depth we feel, the drive, the conviction that there is more than what is before it, that there is meaning, significance, to our lives. I believe all of that is true, and I believe it is God gave us this for a reason: it draws us toward himself. It is why we search for the divine, why we crave to understand.
But here’s the thing: even having this eternity in our hearts, we cannot figure out all that God has done. We have eternity in our hearts, but it’s a glimpse, a reflection. We can’t understand it. We aren’t equipped. It is a mystery we have to just accept as truly awe inspiring as it is.
Once we do this, we can accept our place. We do our work, not because it will be left for someone worthy, but because the work is worthy, and we trust the benefit of our toil to be managed by God himself in ways we cannot fathom. We seek wisdom not because it sets us apart from anyone else or makes our lives better than theirs in ways that are material and measurable, we seek wisdom because it draws us closer to God, and it makes our lives better in ways that are subtle and quiet and deep.
Be joyful in your work. Live in the moment while pursuing God’s purpose, God’s will for your life. Surrender your tomorrows to his direction. Be a good steward, seek wisdom, and work well, sure. That includes things preparing for emergencies and retirement, but it isn’t empire building for the sake of empire building. It isn’t intentionally crafting a legacy.
Think of it like the message of a Hallmark movie: there’s nothing wrong with dreams and ambitions and five year plans, but make sure you’re still living in today, not putting off your life until you’ve realized every last point on that carefully crafted vision board you made two years ago when you were a different person with fewer experiences.
We can’t see the fullness of God’s plan, so don’t stress over it. Do your part. Seek his will, and find your joy in that, in the process, in the relationship.