September 27, 2011
Why It's Not Meaningless
"A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?" Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 (NIV)
Is your work always fulfilling? Are your days endlessly satisfying?
I can almost hear you saying, "Um, no—not even close." Mine either.
I teach college students. I love learning and sharing what I've learned. I adore the smell of freshly sharpened pencils. I enjoy the honor and challenge of shaping the next generation.
What I don't much like are the hours of grading, or the occasional unmotivated student that make my best efforts feel wasted. My job has its perks, and its downsides. I'm sure yours does as well.
There's a prevailing notion in our culture that if we could just find the perfect job-our dream job-we'd have day after day of blissful purpose. But even the noblest task, the most glamorous profession, or the most acclaimed work has its frustrations.
King Solomon realized this and resented it. He grew to loathe life when his meals, his money and his work didn't prove endlessly satisfying (Ecc. 2:18). He was wise to realize no carnal, earthly or material thing will ever fully satiate us. No dinner party, employee-of-the month award, new home, relationship, merit raise, coffee drink or end-of-season clearance sale.
Solomon looked at life's inability to truly satisfy, and the fact that one day he'd be gone and his work may not be remembered, and decided all was vanity—all is meaningless here under the sun apart from God.
I found his book of Ecclesiastes perplexing with its "everything is meaningless" refrain. In it Solomon seemed to call everything life has to offer pointless. Something in my own spirit understood what he meant, yet also rebelled against the idea that life's pleasures and accomplishments are all for naught.
So I spent a year reading Ecclesiastes, seeking God's insight on this. I wanted to know how to approach work and leisure, how to view frustration and pleasure.
My driving goal became to craft a meaningful life that is pleasing to both me and God. I took cooking classes and learned to make delicious meals—I even learned to enjoy the effort involved in making them. I read novels as well as the Bible on my back patio. I invested myself anew in my teaching. I grew better at glorying in life's little pleasures, and letting them fortify me against discontent, depression, or worse, sin.
That year I discovered a divine secret. Today's key verse shows Solomon saw it too. The moments of enjoyment found in our work, our laughter, or even our daily food are sheer gifts from God.
Gifts to relish. Gifts that remind me—in a world often dark, cold and disappointing—that God is good.
These gifts don't offer continuous bliss—they punctuate days of toil and tears. They give me a taste of an afterlife that will exceed the earthly pleasures of a good meal, a tulip in bloom or a job well done.
These gifts satiate me over and over with—here's the key—gratitude to God. They not only gratify me when I enjoy them but they point me to a loving Creator who holds pleasures evermore in His right hand (Psalm 16:11).
That realization makes me enjoy the gift and the moment even more.
I find this gratitude deeply satisfying—it's pleasing to both me and God. So I eat, and drink, and take satisfaction in my work, for without Him there would be no enjoyment. And in them I can honor God with my pleasure.
Dear Lord, thank You for each and every source of enjoyment You provide in this life. Lord, every good and perfect gift comes down from Your hand, and I am grateful. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Visit Rachel's blog to win a copy of her book It's No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know. Inside the pages you'll learn twelve more divine secrets.
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp
Do something today that gives you satisfaction. Then give God thanks.
Take pleasure in your work, no matter how mundane or demanding it is. Give thanks to God for the ability to work and to rest.
At your next meal, chew slowly. Taste the flavors. Feel the texture and temperature—and give thanks to God for your food, regardless how simple or gourmet.
Do I pause to open the gifts of enjoyment God affords me?
How often do I give Him thanks in return?
Ecclesiastes 8:15, "So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun." (NIV)
Psalm 34:8, "Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!" (NLT)
© 2011 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105
Originally published Tuesday, 27 September 2011.