Life Under the Sun

Suffering and the Life Under the Sun

Ecclesiastes 9:2-9

“It is the same for all.  There is one fate for the righteous and for the wicked; for the good, for the clean and for the unclean.”

 

            The Book of Job and Ecclesiastes wrestle with the same question:  Why do the righteous suffer?  Traditional wisdom affirms that the righteous are rewarded, but the wicked suffer calamity (See Prov. 13:21; 10:24, etc.). But reality often plays a cruel trick.  Instead of the wicked suffering, it is usually the righteous, and calamity indiscriminately falls upon them.  This leads to the theological crisis that confronts Job and his three friends.  While his three friends concluded (wrongfully) that Job’s suffering resulted from sin, we discover at the end of the book that God does not always insulate the righteous from adversity but has a purpose in allowing us to suffer.  However, we may not always perceive or understand that purpose.  All we can do is simply trust in the creator of the universe to execute his plan in our lives (Job 38-41).

            In these verses, Solomon conveys the frustration of Job.  In the realities and struggles of life, there is often no difference between the righteous and the wicked.  Both face the same problems and challenges in this life (vs 2).  Living a life of faith may still result in circumstances and struggles that defy our understanding and explanation.  Cancer strikes both the wicked and the righteous equally and without impunity. Bad things still happen to good people.  In our sin-marred world, both the righteous and the wicked face the same death.  

What is the point of living if the wicked and the righteous face death equally?  The answer lies in verses 4-6. There is still hope in life, for there is still the opportunity to prepare for our encounter with God (vs 4).  In life, we can still determine our eternal destiny.  In spite of the struggles, there is still meaning in life. No matter how much we may suffer, we still have the hope of redemption.  How we live does make a difference for eternity, but once death strikes, the hope is gone.  There are no second chances.  Christ affirms this same truth when he states, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4).  We are to embrace life in the present because it provides us the opportunity to change our life.  The absolute fool is the one who lives life as if there is no eternity, and so they give free rein to their passions and desires.  They embrace the slogan, “You only go around once in life, so you must go for all the gusto.” However, Solomon warns us that we are to live with the awareness that death is a reality, and then we must give an account. For all the struggles of life, it still has meaning.

In light of the reality of death and its finality, Solomon brings again back to the theme that we have seen woven throughout the book.  Confronted with the stark reality of death, we are to embrace the life we now have.  Life is a gift from God, and despite all its troubles, it is still to be enjoyed.  He reminds us of death to challenge us to live in the present and enjoy what God has given us. So often, we fail to enjoy the moment, for we are always trying to live in the future.  We live in the world of the “if only.”  If only we had this, we would be happy.  If only we accomplish a particular feat, we will be fulfilled.  If only our circumstances would change, we you find joy.  But this is an illusion.  Instead of always looking to the future, enjoy the present.  As the Psalmist reminds us, “This is the day the Lord has made, Let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).  For all its problems, God still gives us the capacity to enjoy life.  Instead of looking forward to what might be, enjoy what already is.  Then, we will discover that God brings joy even in the midst of the struggles. 

 

 

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