(photo source: Google images)
(Bible readings: the books of Ecclesiastes and Job)
Apparently, we’re not yet through with Ecclesiastes. Meandering through its passages with many long pauses and deep ponderings, one is temporarily taken away from the glorious praises of the Psalms, the bright hope of the Gospel and from the many teachings of the epistles of Paul and the other apostles about being full of faith, hope and love, rejoicing and giving thanks in everything, and one is brought to that place where one is made to ponder on the dark and painful realities of life. Such is the pull of Ecclesiastes.
When the Lord got angry with Solomon so much so that He was going to tear away the kingdom from him, I believe that Solomon began to see, observe, and experience life differently. For him, it became harder, harrowing, and much more difficult to fathom. He was brought to a place where he pained to study and ponder on the more profound things about life, things that hurt and affect deeply and steal away the very meaning and purpose of existence. And what he found out he summed up in this: “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity.”
I remember the groanings of Job in the midst of his enormous suffering. (For a long time, Job had been a companion in my own suffering). Job was a righteous man and God was pleased with him. But he was tried to the uttermost when the Lord temporarily turned him over to Satan to do to him what he pleased only that he would spare his life.
Job was temporarily cut off from God as Satan took great pleasure to buffet him. His suffering was so unbearable that he cursed the day of his birth and lamented that it would have been better if he had been a stilborn and hadn’t seen the light of day and known the depths of human suffering.
I see similarities between the latter days of Solomon and the trial of Job. And I’m all too familiar with this kind of suffering – physical, mental, and emotional. The kind of suffering that it was sweeter to just close your eyes and be no more. Yes, I had echoed Job’s soul-piercing laments.
And although this was the time that I received the Lord Jesus Christ in my life, my suffering, my fiery trial, put me to a place where I desperately grappled with life – both with its meaning and with the breath in my nostrils.
And I began to see, too, the sorrow and suffering of the world – how a young man hopes, dreams, and studies hard only to be killed meaninglessly, or a man who labors everyday to feed his family and send his children to school, then becomes stricken with an incurable disease or dies in a freak accident. And even if one lives a hundred years, begets children, works hard, and then he dies – what was one’s life all about? Why did we all have to live? It was Solomon’s unspoken question (see Ecc. 6:3-6) as well as mine.
I pained to ponder upon all this to find meaning and purpose to life, and I found them in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His Word.
I then imagined this life, this journey, as a qualifying stage to a final and perfect destination – a place where there’s no more pain, sickness, suffering, hunger, death and crying – and the only One who can make us qualified and worthy to reach that place is the Lord Jesus Christ.
It became clear to me – and I tremble in fear lest I fall short (in my faith and love?), as well as I rejoice in hope – that life is only wrapped with meaning and purpose and grace and love and bright, shining hope, when it is snugly wrapped around God. (Outside of Him, there’s just no point).
A life that is in constant communion with its Source, Protector, Comforter, Shield, Healer, Savior, Provider, Deliverer, Problem-solver, Teacher, Joy-bringer, Wisdom-giver, Miracle-worker. A life that lives in Him, by Him, for Him, and through Him. For in Him is unequalled love, unsurpassed power, unending mercy – eternal life.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Rom. 8:28 NLT)
My gratitude list – thankful to the Lord for His gifts:
- the strength to make these ham and cheese cornbreads and the
- joy of sharing them with family as everyone gathers around to eat these hot-off-the-oven goodies
- watching Hannah and Tim hug each other tightly and happily
- listening to Hannah play the piano
- the endless wisdom and inspiration God’s Word brings