By Published On: April 12th, 2023Categories: Leader Blog, Meditation for Preparation0 Comments
Photo by Zugr on Unsplash

Read: Ecclesiastes 1:1-18

When this book was first mentioned to me, I was sitting next to Pastor Larry and exclaimed, “I love Ecclesiastes! It is so encouraging.” Needless to say I got a bit of a quizzical look from our Pastor. He even questioned why I wouldn’t pick Philippians or Colossians as encouraging books. It isn’t that I don’t see those books as encouraging, but for me, there is a different type of encouragement that comes from the message of Ecclesiastes. 

I often describe myself as a recovering perfectionist. From an early age I have wanted to do everything correctly; do it right and do it the exact way it needs to be done, especially in accordance with my own personal ideals of perfection. Not only do I want to be perfect, I want this world to be perfect. I want it to not be broken, not be unjust, not be filled with hurt, not be filled with sickness. I want the world to be a peaceful, kind place that is full of birds singing (but not too early in the morning) and stocked with baked goods (where calories don’t count, and Celiac doesn’t exist). But as I grow older, I must face the fact that I will never attain perfection and neither will the world that I live in. Because of that reality, I find Ecclesiates encouraging. 

Ecclesiastes gives us a glimpse into the mind of the Preacher who seems to be dealing with the same fullness of life and dread of reality that I think many of us feel. He flows back and forth between an idea of enjoying this life: “Eat, drink and find enjoyment in your toil,” to a world of despair: “He who increases knowledge, increases sorrow.” 

Isn’t this how we are? “I love this life!” one minute and “Oh why do things have to be so hard!!” the next. Ecclesiates tells us we aren’t the only ones that struggle with this. And the book gives us a direction, way, and guide of how to walk through these struggles of the mind and heart. 

It sets before us how to keep things in perspective. Though there may be an increase of sorrow that comes with knowledge, the preacher also teaches, “There is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness.” (Ecc. 2:13) With wisdom there can be discouragement that leaks in, but there is still more good in wisdom than in foolishness. Or maybe we can relate to the Preacher as he says, “My heart found joy in all my toil…then I considered all that my hands had done….(and) there was nothing to gain under the sun…find enjoyment in his toil…this is from the hand of God.” (All these excerpts are taken from Ecclesiates chapter 2.) It’s a battle back and forth among enjoying this life, being taken over by the harshness of reality, and keeping the truths of God rightly in our minds. 

The book opens with what seems to be a pretty low note, but the author is trying to get the audience to a place of understanding his struggle: the struggle between living in the joy of who God is and the good things God has given and the hurt and darkness of this world. But don’t we all struggle? Don’t we all want to understand the world around us? Don’t we want to know how God is working inside this world? This seems to be a question that permeates the entirety of the book. 

“As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.” (Eccl. 11:5) 

The Preacher reminds himself, and us, that full understanding of God’s works and actions cannot be comprehended or known by humankind. Yet, even in this reminder of our inadequacies, is the truth that God is at work, and God is the Creator of all things. That is encouraging. We might not be able to understand it, but the truth that God is still on His throne can fill us with calm in this chaotic world. 

But this isn’t what Ecclesiastes is known for, is it? It is known for phrases like, “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity” or “It’s all chasing after the wind” or “There was nothing to be gained under the sun.” No apologies–I love that these words are found within Scripture!! Doesn’t it feel like we are chasing after the wind as if we are trying to capture it and control it, but we can’t! Just like we can’t stop doing the day-in and day-out mundane chores of life, we also can’t stop the injustice of child abuse or cure our loved ones of the sickness or darkness that is oppressing them; but we know the One who can. 

God’s attributes are on display in this book. He gives. He creates. He takes action. He seeks. He judges, and on and on and on it goes. The Preacher doesn’t shy away from what God is doing and speaks of how it is both joy and confusion. This is my encouragement to you as we begin this book. Look to seek God’s truth within these passages. Look to see how we are like the Preacher: confused but seeking; discouraged but joyful; fools but seekers of wisdom. Remember that God’s Word is good. As Paul wrote to Timothy, 

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

And that includes the book of Ecclesiates. So please seek out how this book is good for rebuking, correcting, and training, so that you may be equipped to serve our Lord and Savior with every good work.