Have you ever reached a point when you hated life? The Preacher writes in Ecclesiastes 2:17, “So I hated life!” The truth is, I think we have all been there.
Being sick and tired of life is something that happens to all of us at one time or another. It’s hard to function properly when we feel like that. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon describes how we become tired of living. Work becomes monotonous. Ridiculously demanding. Meaningless. Job satisfaction evaporates. Family life is draining or simply mundane. Even pleasure isn’t pleasurable anymore. It’s unsatisfying and underwhelming.
All that’s left is a lot of pressure, worry, obligation, and melancholy moments. All of this is a “striving after the wind,’ as the Preacher puts it. Chasing wind sounds to me quite futile.
We can try to find some comfort in thinking about our work as benefiting out children, those who come after us. So we decide to toil on their behalf. “Sounds plausible,” you say. But Solomon lets the air out of that balloon. “Who knows whether they will be wise or fools? Yet they will control all for which we worked and used our wisdom.” Meaningless.
In addition to frustration and boredom, there’s the fact of so much injustice and conflict. Tears of the oppressed and no one to comfort them. Solomon wondered if the dead were the “lucky ones” compared to the living. But with death comes returning to dust, like the old Kansas song from the 1970’s: “All we are is dust in the wind.” And then … eternity.
What’s the purpose of life anyway? The Preacher has seen it all. Even the loneliness that chills and isolates a person. The elderly feel their life is behind them. All that remains is passing the balance of their time away. Those still young often have few substantial goals other than to merely exist a have a little fun. Both find it difficult to see through all the “humbug” in everything. So the Preacher, Solomon, hated life. There are a hundred reasons to be tired of life. Even more!
There is one reason to live each day cheerfully with joy. That one reason is Jesus Christ. In the midst of broken dreams and sleepless nights, God has given rich purpose to living each day. Making our own plans, choosing what we want life to be, seeking recognition and advancement in our drive for success is a recipe that leads to emptiness within. But when the living Christ comes into an individual’s life, each day takes on new meaning. Instead of life being “self-directed” where tasks are done for personal satisfaction, personal enjoyment, and personal gain, life becomes “Christ-directed”. Everything is done in reverence for Christ and to His glory.
Even the most trivial of tasks becomes “high and holy” when done for Jesus. A parent changing diapers. A teenager cutting the grass for his parents. A clerk waiting on customers. A neighbor helping a struggling family next door. A teacher pouring heart and soul into preparing lesson plans for students. In our vocations, we have the opportunity to serve Jesus by serving others. Such a life has great purpose in living every single day and great significance in every single task.
But why should life be “Christ-directed” anyway? Why should we live for someone we can’t see, can’t hear, can’t touch? Someone I can’t even be sure is even real.
Sin blinds us from recognizing God. God reveals himself in the wonder of creation, but most clearly in the wonder of the pages of the Scriptures. In the Bible, God meets us. Speaks to us. Opens His mind and heart to us. It is God’s story, rescuing mankind from sin’s “self-direction” and “self-delusion”. Life with all its fullness that God intended is poisoned deeply by man’s stubborn rebellion. Family and community life, meant to be rich with the joys of relationship and caring, turns sour with assorted irritations. Wealth brings no joy when it becomes a cruel taskmaster that wraps its purse strings around our hearts and controls our lives, snuffing out generosity. In a word, sin makes us hate the life God’s given us. Life becomes a cruel joke, a heavy burden, a meaningless routine, a joyless rat-race to nowhere.
How rich Christ makes every moment. Not necessarily easy, but rich. Loving us with the sacrifice of His life that redeems us from sin’s self-directed mess, Jesus forgives us and frees us from being a hostage of sin. Connected to Christ in a faith gifted to us by the Holy Spirit, our eyes are opened to see life as God intended it to be. Life is changed — not merely here on earth, but in eternity that follows with the certainty of resurrection life.
Without Jesus, life may seem void of meaning and purpose. Futile and vain. Knowing Christ gives us endless reasons to climb out of bed in the morning. Even without the smell of coffee.