4. Contentment in a Confusing World: Ecclesiastes
Life is often hard and unexplainable, but those who hope in God are able to find contentment in any circumstance!
The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil. -Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
Life doesn’t always play out in cookie-cutter scenarios: innocent people suffer; obedience to God is oftentimes followed by unideal circumstances; and unfair events are all too familiar in our broken world.
The author of Ecclesiastes, most likely Israel’s King Solomon or someone who followed in his wisdom philosophy, argues that there are two ways we can go through life given its often hard and unexplainable nature: we can try to find meaning and satisfaction apart from God; or, we can trust God and continue to obey him.
The book points out several ways we as humans try and fail to find meaning apart from God: We look to pleasure and indulgence, but eventually, these experiences stop fulfilling us. We look to success and progress, but we lose motivation when we realize the depressing reality within the secular worldview that eventually time will erase us all and everything will cease to matter. We look to money and the accumulation of material things, but they never bring lasting peace.
The author himself provides a personal account of his own life and search for meaning. He denies himself nothing, and he racks up unprecedented wealth and accomplishments. But after all of this, he concludes, “Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun (Ecclesiastes 2:11).” No matter which road you take, life apart from God cannot bring fulfillment.
So, what’s the alternative to this empty chase? According to the author of Ecclesiastes: “Fear God and keep his commandments.” Obeying God means loving him with our whole heart, and to love and be loved by God is the one thing that truly satisfies our souls! This satisfaction in God means we aren’t looking to the things of this world to make us feel whole or to validate our existence. So, we can enjoy the good things in life when they come, but we can also stay grounded when they go. Yes, hard, unexplainable things will keep happening, but those who hope in God find contentment in the present!
Ecclesiastes motivates its reader to love and obey God by framing this current life within the reality of their future existence. “For God will bring every act to judgment,” it says. When Jesus came, he actually inaugurated the future that Ecclesiastes pointed to. On the cross, Jesus took on the judgment our sin deserved. And when he rose from the dead, Jesus opened up the door to eternal life with him! Those saved in Christ are able to live with an eternal perspective on what really matters. The message of Ecclesiastes, in light of Christ, is to obey God given the living hope Jesus has brought you.
A life shaped by eternal hope, secured in Christ, means a life busting at the seams in abundant living. Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 says, “I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man.”
Are you longing for this abundant life that grows out of contentment? Are you feeling restless or unsatisfied? Reset your perspective on your hope in Christ: God has made you his child, and you will spend eternity with him in perfect existence.
Respond: Take a moment to ask God to help you live today in light of your hope.