Tag Archives: meaningless

99: Trying too Hard

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What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labour under the sun?” Ecclesiastes 2:22 NIV

It is good to work. If you are blessed with having found work, especially the work you feel God prepared in advance for you to do, as Paul expresses it in Ephesians, then you are a fortunate person indeed. The writer of the book of Eccles (as you know by now I call it) is not keen on the idea of work, labour or storing things up for oneself. He rightly tells us that we can’t take any of it with us when we die, that life is short and that most of it seems pretty pointless.

He’s not the cheeriest of chaps, really, old Eccles. I am not sure I’d want to spend a great deal of time with him. I don’t think he’d be one of my choices in that game of fantasy dinner guests. And yet, when I am feeling low, I agree with him. If I am down and exhausted, the thing I’m most likely asking myself is “What’s the point?” It can feel like all the pain and effort, all the trying, all the striving, is all for nothing. Even the things that I enjoy doing, like writing and art, seem like just so much chaff blowing away on the wind.

Perhaps the best thing we can do with this realisation is to embrace it. There really is no point storing up earthly wealth, so that ambition can be let go. Being poor is not a lot of fun though, and debt leads to a great many problems as well as terrible stress, and perhaps this wasn’t something that preoccupied the writer of Eccles that much as he is widely believed to be King Solomon, who wasn’t exactly short of a bob or two. So, once needs are met, we might say, there is not much point chasing after wealth or status for its own sake.

So what is worth striving for? What is worth going after? Fame? Wisdom? Pleasure? No, our advisor doesn’t find these things worth the trouble either. So what then? What is that pearl of great price that Jesus mentions? That treasure that is so great that we should immediately go and sell all we have to procure?

When I think about this, I think of Moses. He lived to the ripe old age of 120 with none of his faculties diminished, after having spent 40 years maturing, another 40 regretting a crime and becoming humble, and finally 40 years serving the Lord faithfully. And yet at the end of all that, he did not get to enter the Promised Land with his people.

We might well say his reward was to come later. That he was to enter a different Promised Land and walk with his God. Yes, that’s true. But for Moses, that eternity had already begun. He was already walking with God, and more intimately than with anyone else who had come before, it seems.

he said, “Listen to my words:

“When there is a prophet among you,

I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions,

I speak to them in dreams.

But this is not true of my servant Moses;

he is faithful in all my house.

With him I speak face to face,

clearly and not in riddles;

he sees the form of the Lord.” Numbers 12: 6-8 NIV

Likewise, when Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus sits at the feet of Jesus to adore him and learn from him, Jesus calls this “the one necessary (or needful) thing.” Relationship with the Lord, then is the key to the meaning of life. This is where we begin our eternity and how we are led deeper into it. In gazing more and more at the Lord of all things, into the heart of love itself, the more the peripery, the other fields, the lesser pearls, all fade into nothingness and we can be sure that we have found something meaningful under the sun, something worth pursuing, worth going after. And the best thing is that it is not something we need to strive for, but something that we simply choose.

 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 NIV

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

 

42: Meaningless

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So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Ecclesiastes 2:17 NIV

Dear old cheerful book of Eccles, how I love your honesty! It seems appropriate today, on day 42 of the Veil of Tears, to talk about the meaning of life. However you calculate it, as I sit here playing solitaire on my laptop because my brain is too tired to do much else, life seems pretty meaningless. But these sayings, often attributed to Solomon, are talking mainly about the pointlessness of striving or working for material goods, and the lack of purpose to a life lived solely for earthly rewards.

Indeed, we might say that making riches or fame your goal, since we all die anyway, is pointless. Ecclesiastes goes to great lengths to remind us that we cannot take it with us. In my case, there’s very little to take, and so it is not hard for me to think that meaning must have its seat somewhere else. If our final result is the grave or the ceramic jar, then there really is no point and we may as well live how we like and throw all cares to the wind the writer of the book says we are chasing.

We can all feel from time to time, that our lives are purposeless, pointless, meaningless. Even if we help others, we’re all going to die, so what does it matter? But within an eternal universe, every action and thought matter, however small, because everything is forming us for a different kind of existence. Sometimes the work is onerous and the things we go through seem too hard and of little import. But the Lord sees it all, and even the tiniest effort, made from, through and with love, matters.

But whilst we know this and we can talk forever about the wonders of love and how it makes meaning out of everything in life, the seeming good and bad, there are still those times of feeling utterly bereft and forsaken. When it’s all so tough and we just say within ourselves, what’s the point? I am having one of those moments as I write this. And I have to hold onto my mustard seed of faith and tell myself that this writing does mean something. That my life does matter. That I am making a difference. That my art, however little and unskilled it is, improves the world. Because everything that makes life better, everything that calls out the bright and the beautiful, the true and the good, is meaningful, even as it praises the maker of all things and as it brings more and more of his kingdom into ours, preparing our weary hearts and souls for a new way of being.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

photo from Pixabay