A Dose of Reality
Once when I was visiting a small village in England, I stumbled upon a graveyard. As I walked among the tombstones, I observed a variety of ages chiseled into their surfaces. Some people had lived to be 91 and others 84, while some did not make it past 20. Yet when all these ages were taken together, the average life span was around 70 to 80 years—just as the Bible says: “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty” (Psalm 90:10). And more time than that had gone by since most of these people had passed.
This sobering reminder of life’s brevity returned me to a question that all of us ask at one point or another: Is this life all there is?
The book of Ecclesiastes addresses this deep question by giving us a solid dose of reality. Truthfully, most of us don’t do well with reality; we prefer fantasy, mirage, and distraction. Yet the author of Ecclesiastes, Solomon, begins his discourse by encouraging us to reflect upon the absolute meaninglessness of life, stating bluntly, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”
Solomon seeks to prove his thesis by showing us that life is marked by drudgery: “What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever” (Ecclesiastes 1:3-4). Life, in other words, is just a perpetual series of clockings in and clockings out until you die. No matter who you are—whether you are an executive, a schoolteacher, or a stay-at-home mom—life “under the sun” contains much toil, and then it ends.
Does this leave you thoroughly depressed? It should—if you rule out the existence of God. When God is taken out of the equation, life truly has no meaning. There is a reason why some people desire to escape reality through a drug-induced stupor or through mindless indulgence in pleasure and entertainment. What may seem like strange behavior to us may actually be the response of one who has gotten a heavy, albeit incomplete, dose of reality.
The book of Ecclesiastes forces us to consider the meaning of life in view of death. But read the rest of the Bible and you will discover that you may receive eternal life by trusting in Him who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Only through Jesus will you discover life’s true meaning and find the reason why all is not vanity. Only if you remember there is life beyond the grave will you be able to live with joy, and meet with the ups and downs of life with a healthy perspective, on this side of the grave.
How is God calling me to think differently?
How is God reordering my heart’s affections — what I love?
What is God calling me to do as I go about my day today?
All Is Vanity
1The words of the Preacher,1 the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
2Vanity2 of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
3What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
4A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
5The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens3 to the place where it rises.
6The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
7All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.
8All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
9What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
10Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
11There is no remembrance of former things,4
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things5 yet to be
among those who come after.
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