|Diary Page Eighty-Six: Wrestling with Ecclesiastes|
|October 9, 2011 I can't see no reason to put up a fight....
Eccl. 3:1-14 I've never really been sure how to apply the wisdom in these verses. For everything there is an appointed time, a season, but how do you know when, and how can you be ready if you do know? What stands out for me is verse 9 where, immediately after poetically explaining that there is a time for everything, Solomon asks what is the advantage for working hard and doing something? Especially since God has put forever in our hearts, knowing that nothing we make and nothing we do will last forever. Only what God makes lasts "to time indefinite".
I think this keeps us looking toward God, toward the one who can make what is good to last forever, since we cannot do that. For us there is an appointed time for everything, but God is the one who appoints time itself. That said, once again Solomon makes clear that we aren't just looking toward the future. Living for the future, living for "time indefinite", is an unsatisfying way to live. I keep waiting for the right time to start living, to make my moves, to set goals and work towards them. Yet I am also disturbed by the seeming futility of doing work and the emptiness of not doing anything. I get caught between.
Verse 15 seems like a source for hope and a need for deeper understanding: "What has happened to be, it had already been, and what is to come to be has already proved to be; and the [true] God himself keeps seeking that which is pursued."
Solomon repeats what he has said before, that there is nothing new because everything has already been and will be again. Earlier that seemed reason for despair. But the latter part of this verse points toward a different way of looking at this reality. What is pursued?
*** w06 11/1 p. 14 Highlights From the Book of Ecclesiastes ***
‘What is pursued’ may refer to what God purposes to do. While the repetitive cycles of birth and death and of war and peace may make man feel powerless and cause him to think that history keeps repeating itself, the true God can seek and accomplish all that He wants to. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-10, 15a) ‘What is pursued’ may also apply to the righteous, who are often pursued by the wicked. In this case, Jehovah keeps seeking righteous ones in order “to show his strength” in their behalf.—2 Chronicles 16:9.
Romans 8:28: "Now we know that God makes all his works cooperate together for the good of those who love God, those who are the ones called according to his purpose"
I may not understand why everything cycles over and over again, but God is working his purpose and it is ultimately to the benefit and salvation of those serving him. The important thing to keep in mind is aligning my purposes with God's. I know what to do but I still don't know how I can do it. I still feel I need help to follow the right path, yet I am supposed to make the choice to do the right thing on my own.
Solomon ends this chapter repeating that "there is nothing better than that the man should rejoice in his works", since his fate is no different than that of an animal. We all die and that's it. Animals don't walk around fearing death every day, they live. And God takes care of them. Jesus promised that God would take care of us too. I still don't know how to let that happen or how to see that it is already happening.
Eccl. 4:1-4 Thankfully Solomon does not leave it at "work hard and just enjoy what you can get", because there are some problems with that philosophy as he points out. First, there are those who are oppressed and suffering and no amount of work can save them. These ones need comfort and help. I feel like I am one of those. Second, pursuing your interests in this system of things often leads to rivalry and competition, pride and the fall. Envy and competitiveness underlies a lot of my own anger and despair. Envy of those who seem to have had an easier path: the healthy, the better-looking, the outgoing, the ones who didn't grow up with violence. I feel like I have to fight for everything I can get but I don't want to fight. I want to embrace, not push away.
Verses 5 and 6 point out more futility. Being lazy and doing nothing leads to nothing but poverty and struggle, but better to be lazy than do "a double handful of hard work" when that is ultimately in vain. There has to be a way to strike a balance.
Eccl. 4:7-12 Well these verses make me sad. "There exists one but not a second one...how will it be with just the one who falls when there is not another to raise him up?"
So don't give up on friends and love to pursue riches because in the end, who are you working for? Who will be there for you when you fall? You could extend "riches" to be anything one works hard for and seeks after in this system of things. Now I am lacking in love, and for some reason the love that I do have is not enough to pick me up. Again I return to the deep hurt: who is there to pick me up?
At the same time I acknowledge my own damage and that I do not pick anyone else up. I will admit something that is very hard for me to say: I need more than I can give and I cannot settle for less. I...I feel like I have sacrificed so much of my life for my family and I cannot feel the love, the value, in a relationship that does not promise me the same for myself. Now I guess I have a warped view of love and friendship, which dooms me to appreciating neither. But seriously, no, I am not completely delusional. No one has loved me that much. The only one who can give me more than I can give back is Jehovah. For some reason that's not making me any less lonely. I have never been held or kissed in love at all. I feel like I am burning.