Nothing New Under the Sun: What Has Meaning?

winter

So I’ve been reading Ecclesiastes lately. Amazing little book smack in the middle of the Bible. And a couple of verses have been dancing around in my head.

Ecclesiastes

1:2

Meaningless! Meaningless! says the Teacher.

Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.

1:9

What has been will be again,

what has been done will be done again;

there is nothing new under the sun.

This causes me to have so many questions.  Are our lives really meaningless? Was this author depressed? How can something this cynical be in the Bible?

Sometimes life might feel pretty meaningless. It’s after the holidays. In the dead of winter. Forget the sun, there’s nothing new under the cloudy, grey sky either. We stumble out of bed, having hit the the snooze button on the alarm until the last possible second. We trudge toward the shower, then the coffee pot (or in reverse order), to assemble some sort of presence to face yet another day.

School, work, house chores, bills,  eat, T.V., sleep. Over and over again. A repetitive cycle.

And other times life feels…well, better…good even. Coffee with a friend. Date night with a spouse. The birth of a child. Committing a random act of kindness. Sometimes the monotony is broken up by a week away to Disney World (this actually is my current idea of hell with four little kids, but I’d take the sun) or other such chances to spend money and take pictures. And we feel warm and fuzzy, for awhile.

But we know it deep, deep down; there’s got to be more than is. Something beyond ourselves that would give us meaning.  We yearn…for something, someone. But the idea is nebulous, something we can’t fully comprehend.

So we ignore the ache that bears witness to our soul’s desire. “Quiet down in there, soul,” we say, with all sorts of muzzles; both “good” and “bad;” addictions, busyness, shopping, technology, volunteering, sex. But when we’ve tried all these things and the ache is still there, we’re perplexed and life can feel “meaningless.”

The author of Ecclesiastes is bearing witness to the human state…we’ve tried it all, and yet, none of it is fulfilling…at the level we crave. Was he depressed? I don’t know, but he certainly understood our emotions are real. Christians, just like everyone, else can feel anxious, depressed, and like life is without meaning at times. Even though we shouldn’t, really. In our heads, we KNOW we have all the reason in the world for hope. But we’re still mired in sin. And our relationship with Christ isn’t perfect yet. So we struggle with these things. And then feel guilty about it. Perfect.

We can either continue to push away the ache of meaninglessness with our own solutions or it can drive us into the arms of our Creator. When my baby was born, he had violent jitters that the staff attributed to blood sugar issues. They kept trying to do medical things to him to make him better. But I knew he just needed to be with me. I took him and put him on my chest. He felt my heart beat, heard the voice that had spoken to him for months, and nestled into a warm, welcoming chest. His slimy, jittery body slowly calmed into surrendered peace. His posture softened and he fell into a restful sleep. He was in the arms of His mother and he knew he was safe there.

That scenario reminds me of me. When I’m living out of the safety of my Father’s arms, I’m  like a newborn is with its mother. I’m kind of a jittery mess, and I can’t understand the world all on my own. I can try all kinds of things to be okay, but I just need to crawl up on Jesus’ lap and surrender to being his child. Only there can I fully realize why I was made and where my importance lies.

Ecclesiastes doesn’t just focus on the lack of meaning we feel when we try to go it alone. It offers hope.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity on the human heart, yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11

Though seemingly pessimistic at times, I find hope in the words of Ecclesiastes…God will not let us settle on a meaningless life apart from Him. Our meaning comes when we surrender to Him. When we turn our mundane lives over to God, he can make them beautiful. When we loosen our grip on the things of this earth, we can enjoy life as a gift while keeping our focus on eternal things….what our heart is longing for anyway.

Comments

  1. Cathy Wheeler says:

    Good read, Heidi. That deep down yearning is proof that there is another world awaiting us! And I, for one, can’t wait.