I was reading something recently that drew my attention to the book of Ecclesiastes. This eleven-chapter writing of Solomon isn’t usually the go-to choice when you’re feeling the need for encouragement or inspiration. In fact, most of it reads like a dirge, beating a relentless drum to remind us of life’s pointlessness. However, if we wipe away the presupposition that this passage of scripture is nothing more than a treatise on futility, we can glean an important modern day lesson from the testimony of Israel’s wisest, richest, most creative and experienced king. Ecclesiastes amounts to an ancient diary of sorts and chronicles a wide variety of Solomon’s exploits. And what we find is that his pursuits of pleasure, celebration, education and other experiences of life all lead to one inescapable conclusion… “Meaningless. Meaningless. … Everything is meaningless…. a chasing after the wind.” (Ecc. 1:2; 4:15)
And you know, nothing much has changed in a few thousand years. Our attempts to find meaning and purpose in this life are void… yes, meaningless… apart from the knowledge of God and a relationship with Him. No vacation, no project, no purchase, no adventure, no achievement, no self-indulgence will satisfy the depth of our souls. Oh yes, some bits of enjoyment and happy memories are made along the way, but soul-soothing joy and peace are never going to be the by-products of going, doing, having or consuming. Eventually all these things fall short, leaving us empty and in despair, only to set our sights on a new quest for more (because that always fixes things, right?).
Now, as a believer, you’re hopefully nodding in agreement, yet at the same time, you’d probably have to admit that you’ve walking this same pathway more than once for yourself. Which of us doesn’t have a closet full of remnants of abandoned hobbies that have long ago lost their ability to entertain (cross-stitching, crocheting, scrapbooking, fancy kitchen gadgets, etc), or half-finished projects that didn’t hold our interest and now gather dust in a basement or garage (a partially refinished table, half-closed in extra room, a car rebuild). Pouring yourself into one new thing after the other looking for fulfillment, only leaves you feeling further and further away from sustainable contentment and satisfaction.
Perhaps this is one of the more subtle effects of sin. We are so far away from perfection that we cannot even imagine the life God intended for us to have. Our world is fractured. Our relationships are fractured. Our hearts are fractured. Yet all the while our souls seem to know perfection existed as we relentlessly search for a way out of our exile and back to Eden.
Jesus speaks to these longings of our heart with familiar words. “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” His open arms urge us to stop our exhausting, aimless, futile wanderings in search of significance or meaning and find our peace in Him. Maybe that’s the message our souls need the most. When we make Him the object of our desire, we can be confident that He will give our lives all the meaning we are searching for.
2 thoughts on “The Search for Meaning”
History certainly repeats itself (Job 1:9). And Jesus’ “open arms” urging us as you say, are always open! Your words reminded me of a lyric from Casting Crown’s Just Be Held: “So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away you’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held” – OPEN ARMS!
Thankful Solomon wrote this book
Without this book at some point all our “happy” sermons would fall flat and start to sound trite and stale especially for those of us who have experienced the inevitable effects of living in a fallen world: loss, death, destruction etc
Knowing that everything ultimately amounts to meaninglessness releases us to pursue the only thing that matters…