“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
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.” -Eccles 2:10-11
Solomon sought to find meaning and purpose apart from God. What were his first-hand findings? Work did not yield success. Knowledge did not edify. Achievement did not bring happiness or joy. Peer esteem did not bring friendship or purpose. Pleasure did not bring satisfaction or peace. Sex did not bring love or comfort. Solomon’s successes as a diplomat, collector and patron of the arts did not fulfill his deepest longings for meaning and purpose.
As a good friend once told me, “Nothing is worthless, remember that it can always be used as a bad example”. I guess that I can trust Solomon’s findings that these “remedies” for meaning and purpose don’t work.
Learning from a bad example can be priceless especially when that lesson comes from one of the wisest men who ever lived. How do I apply Solomon’s frustrations and failures to re-focus my own life? The first thing that I do is to make sure that my priorities are aligned. What is most important? What is least important? Do I think and behave in a manner consistent with what is most important in my life?
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – Mt 6:31-33, NIV
“What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” – Mt 6:31-33, The Message