Ecclesiastes 2:11 – Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. (NIV)
"Everything was meaningless!" These cynical words in Ecclesiastes erupted from an aging man as he reflected on the tragic mistakes he had made earlier in life. He had determined to find meaning somewhere "under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:3) — somewhere in this world apart from God. Being the greatest king that Israel had ever had (likely King Solomon), he had everything at his disposal: power, pleasure, knowledge, and wealth. Yet all of that left his soul ravaged with meaninglessness.
Hundreds of years later, another deep thinker, Martin Luther, made a similar point. He wrote, "The desire for glory is not satisfied by the acquisition of glory, nor is the desire to rule satisfied by power and authority. … As Jesus said, 'Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again.' John 4:13" Indeed, many pursuits turn out to be meaningless; they can never truly satisfy.
Meaninglessness characterizes our present era. Some assert that seeds of meaninglessness took root when financial security became more important than developing a meaningful philosophy of life. Certainly, the pursuit of material security has become a prevailing trend. But typically, one discovers a trend to be faulty only after being robbed by it. Indeed, disappointments and bitter losses expose the futility of investing everything in material securities and the exteriors of life. Often, not until people experience trials do they realize that they never took the time to enter more deeply into their own souls. They may feel unbearable grief and despair. Yet this pain and loss can work for good. It can awaken their thirst for something better. A new hope can arise out of the ashes.
Some might even discover that a wasted life has meaning in itself, just as it did for the ancient king of Israel. His earlier failures inspired him to write Ecclesiastes as a warning to future generations. He wrote, "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth." (Ecclesiastes 12:1a NIV) That is surely a warning for today. So are these words in Scripture: "Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." (Psalm 95:7b-8a and Hebrews 4:7b NIV)
When today's young men and women respect such warnings, and when they soften their hearts towards God, they may be spared from a wasted life — and the inevitable despair of meaninglessness.
Prayer: Lord, many of our former pursuits have lost their meaning to us. Today we reach out to You and accept Your invitation to higher purposes. May we find satisfaction in You — above all else. Amen.