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From the Pulpit Article: Faithfulness in Seeming Futility


Faithfulness in Seeming Futility

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11

Ecclesiastes is one of those obscure texts of the Bible we tend to not know what to do with. We either pass over it attempting to not notice it like old rubbage in our garage or we pass by it completely. Some may even cringe at the thought of reading certain passages because it seems so doom and gloom.  However as one brother-pastor said, “There may be no greater gospel application for our age.”  He may very well be right.

Consider a few individuals:

Many women are stay-at-home moms.  Their lives consist of the typical demands that come each day. They wake up to kids poking their faces asking for waffles and chocolate milk, which they make. They immediately clean up laundry or toys while the kids eat only to come back and clean up breakfast while the kids mess up the toys again.  The kids ask for snacks and she picks up the toys, then makes lunch, picks up toys again, runs to grocery to get more snacks, to come home to make dinner, does laundry, bathes the kids, picks up more toys, to put the kids to bed to only pass out and wake up doing it all again.  As one meme that went around said, “Cleaning your house with kids in it is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.”  Exhausted, many moms are left with the question, “Is this what life is? Is this all there is?” 

Consider C.S. Lewis, the 20thcentury stalwart Christian apologist and famed author. He marries his wife, Joy, and within 4 years she passes away.  In his lament he pens a diary, only to be published post mortem, entitled A Grief Observed.  On the pages you can feel the weight of his heart, his body slumped over and the heavy eyes and restless soul.  He writes, “It doesn’t really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist’s chair or let your hands lie in your lap.  The drill drills on.”

Consider a successful businessman. The necessary degrees have been obtained as well as the job to secure financial ease and any comfort desired. The best of food and drink are sought out and are present at the table every night.  This is where the man finds his identity. The satisfactions, material gain, and comforts taken in become who he is and what he lives for.  Sadly, he realizes, as the notable Mick Jagger once said, “I can’t get no satisfaction.”  It seems all familiar and common for us.  Why wouldn’t filling our lives with friends, pleasures and purpose satisfy us?  How is it, rather, they leave us with the void we don’t want to admit and the realization they haven’t given us meaning?

Consider many of your lives.  You labor and toil every day.  Your work your hands to the bone only to only save up enough, after living paycheck to paycheck, to pass away and give it all to someone after you who hasn’t labored and toiled as you have.

We see it happen every day.  Sunrise to sunset. Cashing checks to spend money on distractions from it all.  It’s a familiar and common feeling.  The certain feeling we all have is the question of meaning in the uncertainty of life.

Is this all there is? The drill drills on.  Pleasures fill no void and backs break with worn out hands living the futility of the everyday merry-go-round.  As the country star Kacie Musgraves sang, “Same hurt in every heart. Same trailer different park. Mamas hooked on Mary-Kay, brothers hooked on Maryjane, and Daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down.  Mary, Mary, quite contrary, we’re so bored until were buried and just like dust we settle in this town on this broken merry-go-round and round and round we go.”  We are exhausted and discouraged by the endless repetition in the mere breath of our lives. 

That’s why Ecclesiastes is important.  We all live life under the sun.  If we’re honest with ourselves, when we take a hard look into the variety of life and its experiences, we must admit that life under the sun without God is futile. Its substance is meaningless and a mere breath. We all live in a fallen, Genesis 3 world.  It is a once-Eden but now subject to brokenness. Yet, we all have it in our hearts to long for Eden again and that is what makes the brokenness of this world such a legitimate struggle and the weight so painful.

We all work hard.  We seek out pleasure and happiness in many ways.  Do the pleasures we seek to find happiness ultimately satisfy? We work hard only to take nothing. We learn and with greater wisdom only comes greater sorrow. We eat to only be hungry again. We drink to only find ourselves thirsty again. 

Life under the sun is vanity. Life lived under the sun, without faith in a transcendent God is meaningless, futile, and a striving after the wind.

Ecclesiastes is a book God has given us to help us live in the real world. It defends the life of faith in God by detailing the horror of the alternative.

That is the thesis of Ecclesiastes.  Qoheleth, or the Preacher, begins in his first eleven verses sharing with us his thesis regarding life and an overall consideration regarding it.  Vanity of Vanities, All is Vanity.  Futility of Futilies, All is Futile. (v1:2) He does not mix words and his motif is forefront in his argument.  Does life have meaning? Neitzsche said life was meaningless. Jean-Paul Sartre said man was a useless passion.  Life is broken and nauseating.  What can man gain from it? (v1:3) What does one gain from restless search that brings no lasting capital?  Such is life apart from the transcendent God of the Bible. We see the creation in an endless cycle never finding satisfaction (v1:5-8).  Man comes and goes (v1:4) even when the mountains remain. He is weary with his eyes and ears never filled (v1:8-9).  Life under the sun is meaningless.

So, what is the good news of Ecclesiastes? This is not all there is. There is One beyond the sun who gives life meaning even in the difficulty.  Faithful living in seeming futility puts trust and faith in God who put eternity in our hearts as we look forward to the New Eden.