Monday, November 1, 2010

Ecclesiastes 9-12: Much Study Wearies the Body

Reading for today:  Ecclesiastes 9-12

I sat in my office most of yesterday afternoon, surrounded by books, trying to work out what I wanted to say for my midterm paper.  That old panicky feeling came back to me, and it took me about three hours to move beyond the anxiety and actually get something done.  Today I have notes, but I don't have a paper, and it's due tonight.  

One of the things that causes me great anxiety is the fear that I'm stating the obvious and the reader, in this case the professor, will say, "Duh.  Everybody knows that."  

Or I realize that I'm barely scratching the surface and can't possibly say what needs to be said.  

The thing is, no matter how much I study, how much I read, how much I think about my writing projects, it's never enough.  I can never know everything.  I can never ask all the questions.  I can never find all the answers.  No one can.  

Solomon, the wisest man in history, said the same thing.  He wrote, "No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun.  Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning." (Ecclesiastes 8:17) 

There you go.  I will never understand everything.  No matter how hard I try.  

Oh, and one other thing.  He says that if a wise man claims he knows and understands everything, he's lying.  

So why do I keep trying?  Why do I continue to think that I can figure everything out if I just work hard enough and that I can work past my anxiety if I do enough Lamaze breathing exercises?  Why do I panic when I realize my words don't sound polished and professional? 

Solomon all tells us that, "Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body."  (Ecclesiastes 12:11)

And so celebrate and enjoy life while you still can.  

"Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart . . ." (9:7)

  • I'll be sure to make time for that when my paper is finished.  
  • Solomon does say that whatever I'm doing, I should do it with all my might.  (I suppose that means I shouldn't check FB while I'm working.)  
  • He follows this up by reminding the reader that, after all, we can't work or study or do anything else fun when we're six feet under.  

"Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you . . . all your meaningless days" (9:9)

  • Wow.  Solomon sure knows how to make that sound romantic.  Even so, we'll be sure to make time for that, if we can synch our calendars.

"However many years a man may life, let him enjoy them all." (11:8)

  • "But let him remember the days of darkness for they will be many.  Everything to come is meaningless." (11:8)
Okay.  Solomon is a kill joy.  Basically, he says everything is meaningless.  So eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you'll be dead.  

And that would be the end of it except he adds a few more wise words to the end of this book. He says:
Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:   
Fear God and keep his commandments for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
In other words, our lives would be absolutely meaningless if it wasn't for God.  And you really could do whatever you want if it didn't matter in eternity.  

And if you really do want your life to matter, to have significance and meaning, if you want to avoid futility, keep God's commandments.  

Keeping God's commandments isn't about legalism; it's about love.  You remember that Jesus summed up all the commandments with two very simple ones.  In Matthew 22:36-40, we read that we should love God with our heart, soul, and mind, and love our neighbor as ourselves.  

In doing so, our lives take on meaning.  

And now, back to my paper, which seems rather meaningless at the moment.

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