Finding Wisdom in Unlikely Places
Finding Wisdom in Unlikely places
“Consider the work of God, for who is able to straighten what He has bent.”
No one likes a wet blanket at a party, the gloomy person who only brings negativity when people are celebrating the joys of life. The same is true in our worship. We want the church to be a place of joy and the worship to be uplifting. We want sermons to be positive and redemptive, proclaiming God’s love rather than foreboding and foreshadowing divine judgment. Because of this, the words of Ecclesiastes 7 seem more like a sermon by Digby O’dell (“The Friendly Undertaker” in the Radio show “Life of Riley”) rather than the joyous optimism of Pollyanna (Ok, so I am showing my age here in my choice of shows). Instead of going to the house of feasting, the sage encourages us to go to the house of mourning. Yet he is not trying to give us a depressing view of life. Rather he is confronting us with a realistic look at life in a sin-marred world. The same message is hinted at by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount when he states, “Blessed are those who mourn.”
The fool rushes to pleasure and denies sin’s awful outcome that brings the certainty of death to all people. But the wise learn that suffering and hardship are sometimes our greatest teachers, for in our confrontation with our mortality, we discover the true meaning of life. Thus the paradox in verse three, “when a face is sad, a heart may be happy.” By reflecting upon the end of life, we gain a perspective to make wise decisions in the present. When we stand on death’s door, it causes us to reflect deeply on how we live life and utilize our time, talents, and resources to serve God. The greatest tragedy of life is to stand at the chasm of death and realize that we have wasted what God has given us. The greatest sorrow in life is not death; it is a wasted life. To avoid this fate, it is better to go to the house of mourning, where we are reminded of the end so that we might live rightly in the present. By reflecting upon the end of life, we are able to see the importance of living in the present. With the focus on pleasure, we become trapped in the past, for we forget the hardships and develop an idealistic view of the past (vs. 10). We live in the realm of the “remember the good ol’ days” even though the “good ol’ days” were not that good.
The key to life is to instead live with one eye upon eternity. It is to see God’s activity in the past, present, and future, in both the joys of life and the tragedies of life. Meaning and joy are found in recognizing the providence and sovereignty of God (vs. 13-14). We often see life from a temporal perspective—what brings us joy in the present. God’s perspective of life is governed by an eternal perspective. He orchestrates events based on what will achieve eternal results, for that is what makes life worth living. It is only by looking to God and his eternal purposes we can truly begin to see the plan and movement of God in the present.
A life worth living can only be determined by God. Thus we must trust God to sovereignly work in our lives through the joys and sorrows (vs. 14). Rather than become bitter about the struggles of life or become overly enamored with the false hope of prosperity; we can simply trust in God, for it is only in our trust in him that we find true meaning and fulfillment in life. A life of faith is never a life wasted. This perspective can only come when we remember our mortality.