Everyday people all over the world wake up miserable. Sick of their choices and the way their choices make them feel, they determine to try something different. They search and find a pretty limited number of options the world offers them. More money, more power, more success or more fame pretty much boils down their short list. These are the answers the world gives those who want to feel better about themselves. “If you just achieve one of these benchmarks your world will be totally different.” And so they set out.
The person who feels miserable about themselves or their lives finds themselves achieving a few goals. They can get a few more likes on Facebook if they work at it. Hard work produces a raise at work. They can spend some time around people and gain a few more friends. A couple of credit card applications later and they magically have some more stuff. Still they wake up sick of their lives. So they try harder. They work harder. They play harder. But nothing alleviates that empty feeling in the pit of their stomachs when they wake up. They feel like their lives are kin to that vapor that comes out of our mouths on a cold morning and disappears almost as quickly as it comes out. Is there a solution? Can anything be done or are we doomed to making the best out of a sad situation?
The writer of Ecclesiastes could have penned these words. He spends three chapters rambling on and on about the mysterious way life seems to disappear right before our eyes and leave us absolutely empty handed. He’s frustrated, worried, a little anxious and just plain empty. You might ask “What conclusions does he come to, if any?” I’m glad you asked.
The one who wrote this little book tucked away in the Old Testament, just a few books past the massive Psalms, had everything life could possibly offer. Wealth flowed out of his accounts like pennies in my son’s piggy bank. Everyone wanted to be his friend. He had enough power and authority to command vast armies and attract the most beautiful women. And he is the one who writes “Everything is meaningless.” But as the book moves forward we start to see a few rays of hope. He says “life with the wife whom you love” is full of joy. He talks over and over about the joy to be found in work. Food, he says, can bring us joy. In other words, as this rich, powerful, famous guy looks at his life the most valuable possessions and memories he has are the ones that money can’t buy and authority can’t command. He finds himself desiring the simple things. There is a longing in his heart for another home.
We go through our fast paced lives, living for the next thrill; the next needful moment; the next opportunity to feel good. We buy and friend and press on, convinced we are going to miss an opportunity to assert ourselves. I am convinced this is the root of our misery. Humanity wakes up sick and empty each morning because it is totally, 100% fixated on itself; its own push for survival is what is killing it.
I don’t expect the world to step outside this paradigm. Without hope and grace we don’t have a chance. But I do expect believers to get off this colossal Ferris wheel of misery. We have no business spending our days focused on ourselves. We have One who invites our gaze who is so much more worthy of our worship and focus than us. His invitation is not to exchange one dead end path for another. Jesus invites us to pursue a satisfied, fulfilled, peace-defined life. How do we do that? The Bible tells us to ask Him for it.
I wake up each day wanting to shout as loudly as possible that a fulfilled, satisfied, even happy life is totally possible! The only part of that reality that has to do with me is a choice. I cannot choose happiness on my own. That is the point of Ecclesiastes. God is the only One who can provide happiness, joy…life. Jesus offers it to us freely. And we get to choose. Will you choose life?