“Meaningless! Meaningless!” Says the teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
The opening of Ecclesiastes confronts the reader with the notion that the life one lives holds no real value. Reinforcing the seeming worthlessness, all of the work and effort to which one commits their life amounts to nothing in the end beyond an inheritance for another. Where one pours hard work into the growth of their kingdom, it is the heir who benefits, though they did not earn it by virtue of their own sweat. Every pursuit and the rewards obtained, whether from difficult labor or more intangible forms of growth are also little more than a chasing after the wind.
But – reaching the intended purpose of establishing the worthlessness of life, the contrast arrives: life is meaningless and worthless inasmuch as it is the work of man pursuing his own desires. In a nutshell, it is when man lives according to God’s will that a meaningless life has value.
What troubles me about life, I suppose, since the moment I heard Christ’s call to surrender to Him, is not the apparent meaninglessness of life, but the often senseless nature of life’s way, to which I cry out similarly, “Senseless! Senseless!” Just like any person, a Christian will deal with the vast variety of afflictions this life has to offer. Of specific concern, though, would be the trials which come as the result of simple human interaction. One’s sister or brother walks down a city street and they are mugged, during which, they are shot and killed. One’s friend in the faith begins to form a tight friendship with a mutual friend and, slowly, their neglect forms strife. A fiance, girlfriend, husband – any romantic companion – struggles to communicate or to put forth effort to continue developing a strong relationship or work to discover and cure their hangups and determines a continuation of companionship would be lead to dissatisfaction. While not exhaustive, these reinforce the idea that the majority of our respective problems exist as the result of our daily interactions with others.
From Christian eyes, it could be really easy to see one way to justify leaving for a monastery and spending a lifetime depriving oneself for the sake of focusing on worship. The frequency with which a Christian has to endure trials wrought about by the mistakes committed by oneself or another leaves us with little more than small moments of peace before another conflict arises. Often, we leave these matters, whether brought about by our own bad choices or those made by another, as being part of the “fatalistic design” for our lives, yet, sometimes, a mistake is just a mistake and consequences come as the result of the bad choice. Sometimes, we take the good thing the Lord had given to us and we devalue it constantly by asking if it is really the right thing.
I see the Lord’s work not being that of strife or doubt or separation of those who are of the flock, but of healing and restoration. We have to be especially conscious of our duty to make reparations for our misdeeds and seek the restoration of the relationships we have harmed or to be forgiving without question if there truly is a repentant heart seeking to mend or correct the original mistake. We have to grow away from these human infirmities founded upon our sinfulness and pay attention to the great provisions the Lord had given to us. At the heart, we have to do what we can, inasmuch as it has to do with us, to be at peace with everyone. Though not truly meaningless, we find senseless conflicts which are the result of our sin and, while these may not be designed by the Lord as if we were merely actors acting out the established scenes of life’s comedy, He offers us preservation, though we may feel broken into millions of pieces.
All in all, this is just the contemplation of a heart-broken man at the butt-end of two, broken relationships of different degrees. As always, glory to the perfect Lord in whose image we are being conformed.