What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.
- Ecclesiastes 2.22, 23
We live in a world of wretched vanity,
which shall pass away like leaves from a tree.
Woe to the miser who gathers great wealth;
though the world’s course lets him be,
he shall, unless he gives all to God,
face peril at his end.
- Anonymous, “Praising God at the Beginning and the End,” Early Welsh
A world of wretched vanity?
Well, certainly in one sense, which becomes all too clear to everyone when economic uncertainty sets in, or violence strikes too close to home, or a loved one is suddenly taken from us.
The world can seem pretty cruel and vain at such times, as we’re left searching the heavens for some semblance of meaning, some explanation, some relief.
When we live our lives “under the sun” – that is, with reference only to the things we can see, possess, and enjoy – life can seem fairly fragile. Television is full of ads for sleep aids, tension-reducing drugs, anti-depressants, and, of course, remedies to enhance our sexual lives. The idea behind them all is maximum peace and enjoyment in this life.
We don’t like hassles and inconveniences, because they remind us of how vain our little lives under the sun truly are.
But not all the wealth nor all the drugs and good times in the world can bring meaning to lives separated from the living God. Not “under the sun” but “under the heavens” is where we find true peace, rest, purpose, and joy.
Look at the faces of the people around you. Do they seem to be at peace? Do joy and hope radiate from their faces?
What about us?
The world and everything in it is passing away, but this is no reason for remorse. If we know the Lord and love Him, we know that in His presence are fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16.11). The true believer knows these in part even now, and he looks forward to the day when he will know them fully, completely, without interruption, in a world that will never pass away.
Seek this world daily, for it is your proper dwelling place, here and now. And comfort one another with these words.
Psalm 116.7-9 (Mit Freuden Zart: “All Praise to God Who Reigns Above”)
Full well the Lord has dealt with me; my soul from death He delivered.
My weeping eyes, my stumbling feet, He has redeemed forever!
Forever I before His face shall walk with those who know His grace,
And dwell with them forever.
Help me to use this passing-away world to further the purpose and glory of Your eternal Kingdom, O Lord.