For just about everyone living through 2020, our world has never been more difficult to understand or come to terms with. People are dying to Covid-19, people are fighting against oppressive systems and police brutality while actively and presently being oppressed and brutalized, things people hold dear are slipping through their fingers and they can’t seem to get a hold of them regardless of how they reposition themselves or their hands and arms to hold on. Many of us are trying to keep the faith and stay strong while teetering dangerously close to the cliffs of discouragement and despair – some have jumped off the cliff; others are considering it. Some of us have stopped watching the news for our mental health; some of us can’t stop watching the news and waiting for updates to help us, if not keep calm and stay in control, at least stay woke. The Teacher’s many Meaningless-es in Ecclesiastes are starting to hit very close to home and we’re trying hard not to make it apply to everything in our lives.
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” …and I’m inclined to agree. I would like to share a few thoughts on Ecclesiastes 1:1-11.
‘1The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: 2“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” 3What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? 4Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. 5The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. 6The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. 7All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. 8All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. 9What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. 10Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. 11No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them. ‘
There is a clear and distinct theme of [things and people] moving on – whether it’s because of death or for whatever reason. It is this undeniable transience that makes finding meaning especially difficult.
A fact of life as conveyed in this message from the Teacher is this: This life and this world, ultimately, do not and will not satisfy.
If one were to carefully consider the world we live in and what it has to offer, (s)he would be hard-pressed to come to a different understanding and conclusion than what has been put forth by the one named Teacher (v. 1) here:
- Work and money (v. 3) can be lost… and even where they are not, one would have to leave it behind anyway.
- Family, friends, relationships and people in general (v. 4) can be lost… to [physical] death or some other form of separation.
- Nature (v. 5-7) is beyond man’s control…. it does as the One who controls it pleases.
- Ambition (v. 8) doesn’t quite lead to full satisfaction… because things are changing so fast [you fall in love with your iPhone; Apple brings a newer, better version you wish you’d waited for] – there will always be something more to be had/gained.
- World systems and trends (v. 9-10) are forever orbiting as if through a revolving door… they go and they come back with major or minor tweaks and adjustments.
- Memories (v. 11) which we like to tell ourselves last forever actually don’t.
The inevitable conclusion after considering all these is this:
If this [our world] is all there really is to it, then everything really is meaningless.
Blessed – really, truly blessed – are we who know that God is, that Christ exists, and that He is the meaning and the reason for life and the living it. Apart from Him [which includes attempting to take Him out of our lives – super unwise, considering He gave you the life you’re trying to keep Him out of], nothing makes and will make sense if life as we see it and as we know it is all there is to our existence.
In a speedily changing world, your best bet for finding meaning is in permanence – true permanence. Unchangeability. Only God has this to offer; nothing in the world can give you that. He says in Malachi 3:6, ‘For I am the Lord, I do not change [but remain faithful to My covenant with you]; that is why you, O sons of Jacob, have not come to an end.’
So here’s my simple message to you today: SEEK THE LORD WHILE HE MAY BE FOUND! [Isaiah 55:6]
If you have lived, so far, for yourself… taking life as it is and not living with the realization or understanding that there is LIFE – real life – that a Saviour offers beyond this one, SEEK HIM. He has promised that anyone who does will find Him. [Jeremiah 29:13; Deuteronomy 4:29]
“…while He may be found” means that there is a window of opportunity that will be shut at some point and that means you owe it to yourself to SEEK THE LORD NOW! If this year has taught you anything, it should be that life is seriously unpredictable [and like my dearest sister and super editor Mawuena shared with me, this has taught her to say “God willing” a lot. This “God willing” is not just a religious mantra but a consciousness of the fact that His will is why we’re still here and why we’ll keep being here; it’s how we live and move and have our being Acts 17:28a]. That means you can’t waste time in making this decision. A Saviour waits in eager expectation of your turning to Him; all you need to do is seek Him.
If you are living in anticipation of that better, greater life to be had when this one is over, don’t stop seeking and finding Him. Don’t give in to the despair. You need Him to remind you constantly that He is the Meaning in the seemingly meaninglessness of our world. Be reminded also of the fact and joy of your true home (Philippians 3:20).
True, the way things are right now… we’re not really seeing top but be encouraged by the words of the writer of Lamentations; make them yours:
‘Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.’ [Lamentations 3:21-23]
With all that’s going on around us, I can’t sign off today without asking you to say a prayer for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria. God is able!