… The man who never enjoyed what God gave him… might live 2000 years. But if he does not enjoy life, then [a] baby who was born dead has found the easiest way to the same end.
Ecclesiastes 6:5-6 ERV
What do we do – what have we done – with what God gave us, individually and collectively? Has my life been lived? Do I enthusiastically pursue God and what He has planned for me, or do I mope and cry, regretting what might have been, wishing for what could have been? Do I lose myself in dreams of what I petulantly demand should be, completely ignoring what is and the incredible potential therein? I know those are things I used to do – Until I found Him; until He reached me where I was.
Ecclesiastes repeats over and over how pointless life is. It can seem a depressing book at first glance, for sure. After reading it for myself and from study guides, however, I understand it to be written with a kind of ‘reverse psychology’. It makes perfect sense only when it is read from a thoughtful foundation of belief. (Believing is knowing what I can not prove.) It backs up my faith. Living in this world is not all there is to life. And ‘existing’ is not the same as ‘living’.
My feelings confirm this – and override what logic can only suggest. For example, the thought that struck me, and stuck with me as I studied chapter six, was the question, “what have medical science and technological advances meant for us- in our earthly existence AND in our relationship with God?”
I speak as one who, a few generations ago, would not have reached age 54 due to failed health. I would have died from kidney failure and its complications. Medical science has certainly made longer life possible for me. Of course, this pleases me BUT, in the process, I have learned a bigger lesson: to be content and to accept whatever “really” happens. And to reconsider what to do with all the free time that technology has created.
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:11-13 NIV
This has brought me to the place where I can fervently claim and lean into:
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Phil. 1:21 NIV
I believe this is very different than trying to change reality or filling my “spare” time with entertainment. I hear all about what else surgeons can do these days, but it seems to me that these are nothing more than bizarre attempts to find happiness in and from this world, as if there were no other. This is a completely different focus than undergoing life-saving procedures or undertaking new, life-changing behaviors and mindsets. Will I accept the world as it is, or will I demand that it change to suit me?
You are only what you were created to be – a human, and it is useless to argue about it. People can not argue with God about this because He is more powerful than they are and a long argument will not change that fact.
Ecc 6:10-11 ERV
There are two types of people: those who think that happiness can be found in and through the things of this world, and those who believe (believing is knowing what can not be proved) there is something more. Something greater. Something very meaningful, over and above this place.
I submit: countless stories of serenity, joy, and purpose found in lives miraculously changed and saved by faith, by something that is not found in any doctor’s office or the latest gadget. All because a point of ‘last resort’ had been reached.
I submit: countless stories I have heard and read of continued misery despite trans-whatever, despite hoarding (both literal and figurative), despite the fulfillment of every consumer want, every move to greener grass, every gain of fame and fortune, and every building of bigger barns. All because satisfaction with what God gave is still not … seized, like the day.
My motto? Start with – if not contentment – then acceptance, at the least, and live from there. It’s really just an attitude adjustment. I used to think, “If or when I get x, y, or z, then I’ll be happy.” But now I know to
“Start now, from where you are, with what you have.”