A Fool and Her Mouth – Ecclesiastes 5:1-7

“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words.

When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 ESV).”

These verses have intimidated me for a few weeks now, but it’s finally time to tackle them. Honestly, I’m not sure exactly where this blog is going to go… You see, I’m going through a period in my life right now where I’m trying to become more peaceful regarding who I am. I have become more open about myself to people who might not understand; I have shared my writing with my Facebook friends; I’m working to be completely confident in my thoughts, feelings, and actions. As a result, which I’m sure won’t come as too much of a shock to anyone who knows me well… I am being constantly reminded that I use a lot of words!

“Therefore let your words be few…a fool’s voice (comes) with many words; when…words grow many, there is vanity.” Oh boy… Am I a fool, or what? Thankfully, the commentary and the context of these verses make me feel a little better. The fool here is one who provides “lip-service” for the sake of looking spiritual, when in reality, their heart is far from God. The commentary says, “Sincerity, by contrast, is to be the mark of the Christian.” Phew! I’m sincere, so that makes me feel better….

One important takeaway from this passage is that our words and actions should be consistent. We should strive to always do what we say we’re going to do, and never promise something we have no business making, or worse yet, no intention of fulfilling. We have been studying the book of Judges in church, and a couple of weeks ago, our sermon was about how Jephthah made a vow with God that wasn’t particularly well thought out (Judges 11). Being unfamiliar with this story prior to hearing it, I must admit that I struggled with this sermon, and still do not completely understand everything. However, one thing is perfectly clear – it is of vital importance to clearly think through the promises we make to the Lord!

The commentary makes some other excellent points regarding when to speak and when to listen. The Bible says “Hear, O Israel” rather than “Speak, O Israel”. Jesus also says “He who has ears, let him here” rather than “She who has a mouth, let her speak.” There are many contemporary expressions that go along with this… My personal favorite is “Silence is golden, but duct tape is silver.”

I am comfortable joking about the fact that I am verbose, but I do strive to use my words wisely for building relationships and encouraging others, rather than for tearing people down and being hateful. I pray that my words, while sometimes plentiful, serve to show my love for God and for others. As Ecclesiastes 3:7 mentioned, there is “a time to be silent, and a time to speak.”

But, sometimes I speak too much… I know this; I don’t always want to take it seriously, but it’s an ever present reality. It’s definitely a societal ailment to embrace noise over silence. But, there is a time for silence…

I have a verse on the wall above the television in my living room. It says, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still (Exodus 14:14).” In the ESV, the latter part is translated “you have only to be silent”. I need reminder of this truth….every day, every second, which is why this was the first scripture to adorn my walls.

I strive to be a Christian who revers God and remains in constant awe of His power and mercy. I pray that I am not found guilty of turning God into a false god, a construct of my selfishness, which seeks to promote my own will, rather than His amazing plans for my life. In order to live the life He desires for me, I must keep His greatness (of which I fall incredibly short) at the forefront of my worship, and that requires me to be silenced and humbled by His presence. It also requires me to be patient with His plan, as I am His work in progress, and will not be perfected overnight.

Love God, love people, daily surrender, completely trusting in His plan…. Yeah, that’s what it’s all about!

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14)”

The Importance of Community – Ecclesiastes 4:9-16

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord not quickly broken.

Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice. For he went from prison to the throne, though his own kingdom he had been born poor. I saw all the living who move about under the sun, along with that youth who was to stand in the king’s place. There was no end of all the people, all of whom he led. Yet those who come later will not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and a striving after wind (Ecclesiastes 4:9-16).

I have been putting off writing this, partially because I was afraid it would end up being a little controversial due to the upcoming presidential election. I am also in no hurry to tackle Ecclesiastes 5, as it will be very humbling to unpack! However, today, a friend posted something on Facebook along the lines of where I wanted to take this, which served as my encouragement to “Get ‘er done”.

It’s interesting to consider where my life could have gone. My college fiancée and I were very involved in student government and local politics. I was on the path to become a politician’s wife! I am grateful that God had other plans for me at that time, even though I wasn’t actively seeking Him. Looking at my beliefs now, that lifestyle would have been disastrous!

I’m not very politically savvy, and I do not really identify with a political party. I see politicians as highly fallible, as “absolute power corrupts absolutely”. I support small government, and personal responsibility, rather than increased legislation. I cringe when a new law is made whenever something bad happens because a citizen failed to consider the consequences of their actions. I believe our moral authority should come from Christ, not lobbyists or legal precedence. I believe in the role of community to meet the needs of society, rather than social programs, which are easily manipulated and corrupted.

The importance of community is what I take from this passage. Everyone needs someone else to pick them up when they’re down, to provide warmth when they’re cold, to fight side by side against common enemies. Government can only do so much, as it is not Christ-centered. We should form authentic relationships to meet the needs of others, and to put those needs ahead of our own. That’s the biblical definition of marriage, but perhaps it should be taken further, towards all humanity. If all Christians attempted to model Jesus’ love towards others, our societal problems may be reduced. Sure, it wouldn’t be perfect, as we live in a fallen world, and there will always be people who take advantage of others, but it’s an ideal worth striving for. God showed His mercy for me by sending His son to die for my sins; the least I can do is offer that same grace to other people in the world!

We will never solve all of society’s problems, but as Christians, that’s not what’s important. Our charge is to love God and love others, and even though it may seem our individual efforts are futile, God is watching our actions and knows our hearts. We are to live our lives to glorify Him and that includes sharing His love with the world.

“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to those who were near. For through him we have both access to one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (Ephesians 2:14-22).”

Oppression, Control, and God – Ecclesiastes 4:1-8

Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun. Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh. Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind. Again, I saw vanity under the sun: one person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?” This also is vanity and an unhappy business (Ecclesiastes 4:1-8 ESV).

Oppression is defined as a prolonged cruel or unjust exercise of power. It is a control tactic where people put their personal agendas ahead of what’s best for society as a whole. Oppressed groups can be because of race, sex, religious preference, or essentially any differing of opinion between people. It seems the more successful some people are in their efforts, the more oppression may actually be encouraged. You’re likely familiar with the expression of how it’s lonely at the top. This is because man’s attempts to be prosperous on his own could alienate the people who surround him. Man may view success as being “by any means necessary”. Without compassion and meaningful relationships, those who are oppressed and the successful who fight their way to the top may both find themselves alone.

Does this imply that pursuits of success should be avoided? No, but as Christians, we should stop working in our own strength and allow God to pick our battles for us, in society and in our toil. We should focus on God being the center of our life, and try not to become god to ourselves or others. We need to serve God completely for His glory, not our own personal gain.

I have written about this before, but I think it deserves a second mention. I’m generally pretty slow when it comes to realizing that God is trying to tell me something important!

As I’ve previously mentioned, I am an incredibly passionate person in everything that I do. I fully submerge myself in my hobbies, my church, friendships, and most importantly, my career. I want to give my absolute best effort to make a difference in everything I do. I don’t believe I do this selfishly or for the wrong reasons, but perhaps not everything I do is completely Christ-centered and it should be. There have been times that I have become discouraged or burnt out trying to make a positive difference and that may imply that I am working outside of God’s will for me at that moment.

My career tops the list where I experience this frustration! While sitting through “Death by Power Point” training today, everything clicked perfectly for me! I was reminded that I work for an organization that I am not going to change. There’s too much history; it’s too large; there are too many managers, too much politics… I’ve known this for a while, but it’s hard for me to accept. Let me say it again – There’s nothing I can do to significantly improve my employer! Trying too hard to “fix” my organization will only result in backlash towards me.

Should I find a new career, one that I can exercise more authority over? No, God led me to this position in an amazing way. There were so many bizarre “coincidences” and all of the timings related to my job change fell perfectly into place. I am completely at peace with everything, and God is carrying my through all of my work challenges. His hand is all over this!

Should I give less than my best effort at work? Absolutely not! My work is meaningful and deserves my total focus and commitment. It may not be perfect, but I am definitely making a contribution to society. I should give it my all for 40 hours per week (plus any mutually agreed upon overtime); but, I should not lose heart because I cannot “fix” my organization. I also feel that God is not leading me to be on the fast track to management within the organization. As long as I do my best in my current capacity, that is enough!

I should look to God for guidance as to where to focus my passion and endless energy. Some of His answers may be work related (especially regarding a colleague of mine whom God has placed in my life), but there is so much more to my life than my career.

I feel that God is leading me to become more involved in my family, my friends, my community, and with “strangers” through ministry. The time I am not working should be spent investing in the lives of others, especially my son. All of this should be done prayerfully and completely under God’s direction – because if He leads me somewhere, He will bring me through it. God has shown me time and time again that He is faithful. While I have come a long way in submitting to Him, I know there is more that I can surrender. I’m ready…

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD (Isaiah 55:8).”

Living in the Moment – Ecclesiastes 3:16-22

“Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to once place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him (Ecclesiastes 3:16-22).”

This passage can be easily taken to be depressing, if you let it…. I mean, who wants to consider the fact that we are born, and then we die? This passage may also be overlooked, as it is written outside of the lens of Jesus. The writer questions whether the spirit of man goes upward, but the question is not clearly answered in the book of Ecclesiastes. As Christians, knowing our salvation is guaranteed, we may feel we know more than the writer, and ignore his words.

Many Christians are constantly looking forward to heaven, and I think that’s an appropriate response to our salvation. However, I don’t think we should give up on the present while we contemplate eternity. Our time on earth is truly a gift, and as I’ve previously mentioned, a way to prepare for heaven.

I have spent a large portion of my life living for the past or the future. I’ve let guilt about my past mistakes and my dissatisfaction about unfulfilled dreams waste precious time for too long. I’ve spent countless hours imagining what life could be like if certain things would happen, not even considering if my ideas were remotely in line with God’s plan for my future. All of this is meaningless in the grand scheme of life. I cannot change the past, and I cannot predict the future. The only chance I have is to live each day the best way I know how.

When we moved, I started becoming more intentional about living in the present. I still don’t have this completely down, but I feel I’ve come a long way. I have been trying to build boundaries to keep negative influences from hurting me or controlling me. I have had to accept that some people I love may never understand me, my experiences, or my beliefs. And even though it hurts, I must let go of the negativity related to this truth, which continues to pull me down. I can still love these people and pray for them, but I cannot change them or expect they will want to unconditionally accept me for who I am.

I am more comfortable with the woman I am becoming, and I’m able to be completely myself and open with whomever I interact with. I am less afraid that being me will alienate other people from me. I trust that God will bring people into and out of my life in His timing, and will not let my concerns about the future affect my actions today.

My relationship with my son has improved dramatically because it’s only the two of us and I no longer have any excuse to neglect my responsibility in being the best parent possible. I can admit to my son that I do and will continue to make mistakes, but try to make the best decisions I can at the time. I feel he has grown tremendously in the past year, and is on track to be a compassionate, self-sufficient, and confident man.

I am embracing talents that I had previously given up on when others took control. I no longer need their approval to know that I am doing a good job. While it makes me feel good when people appreciate what I’m doing, as long as I’m glorifying God in everything I do, that’s the only satisfaction I need.

I am taking responsibility to learn how to do trivial things that I’ve avoided because other people were better at those tasks than I was. It doesn’t matter if my home is perfectly decorated, my dinners are gourmet, or if my fashion sense is impeccable. I will give everything my best effort, and that’s good enough for me.

It’s so freeing to make your own decisions and completely own your life, regardless of what other people think. Do I make mistakes? Every day! I often say too much, sometimes not enough, and frequently the wrong thing. My actions don’t always coincide with my intentions. I’m far from perfect when it comes to parenting, keeping house, and fitting in with certain groups of people. I find myself having to apologize a lot, but those apologies are heart-felt and sincere, not simple words with nothing to back them up. God is continuing to mold me into His desire for me….something better than I could ever imagine!

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble (Matthew 6:34).”

Doing Good and Loving Life – Ecclesiastes 3:9-15

What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away. (Ecclesiastes 3:9-15 ESV)

A while back at church, we were asked to fill out a ‘spiritual maturity survey’. The church wanted to gauge where their discipleship progress was, but although not mentioned on the survey, it was clearly looking at the four levels of spiritual maturity: infant, child, youth, and adult.

It may have been easier to not look at the survey from that lens, as my take-away was very disappointing. Since the survey was designed to be a snapshot in time, the questions were to be answered in the immediate present. This meant that all of the questions related to being ‘consistently involved’ in ministry at church, or mentoring others to serve in your ministry at church had to be answered negatively. On the surface that may seem like I am backsliding, but in reality, I’m learning that it takes time to become involved in a new body of believers.

When I changed careers and moved in July 2011, I assumed that I would just immediately fit in my new environment, like I had in my previous life. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. It takes time to become established in anything that you do. Everything… friends, church, work, life! This can feel very disheartening, if you let it! And, I’ve let it…. But, I finally feel that I am turning a corner, and these verses help give me perspective.

Everything that happens in life, whether good or bad, is designed to bring you closer to God. We should enjoy life, but not in isolation; we are to connect with others in everything we do. However, when other people come into the mix, problems may result. Personalities might clash; people might be misunderstood; feelings might get hurt. This is a chance that we take anytime we embark on a new journey, and only time can improve the situation.

I do feel that I am often misunderstood. I think that’s why I enjoy writing; I can reread and edit every thought until the message I am trying to convey is delivered. I have a feeling that people who only read my blog have a better understanding of me than people I see every day. I really don’t like this, as I wish everyone could know my heart and realize that I truly want the best for all people. My mouth and my humanness tend to complicate everything, especially because I am open and straightforward. I do not know how to “play the game”. What you see is exactly what you get.

Most of my really good friends have known me forever. I am an acquired taste, I suppose. I treasure those people who truly get me, and sincerely wish that other people would give me a chance before simply writing me off. Sometimes I feel that people don’t understand me because I look at life differently than most. I try to see the good in everyone and often befriend people who sit outside of the “clique”. I want to love everyone, regardless of how I am treated.

Some people say, “The only person one can ultimately trust is oneself”. I have never subscribed to this theory and while it continues to cause problems, I tend to trust others too quickly and forgive too easily. I sometimes think life would be much easier if I held grudges, hated, and guarded my heart better. But, that isn’t me…

Someone once commented to me that I help the wrong people. I should be doing things for the people who give to me, rather than people who do not. I admit; I do help others who may not “deserve” it and cannot pay me back for it. I try to help those who truly need it, rather than those who simply expect it. Personally, I think that’s what we are called to do.

My decision for how to live and who to love tends to open myself up to problems and judgment from others. I’m learning that this is okay, as it could be just a fast-track to spiritual maturity, which is great considering I have a really long way to go! Life is the practice ground for eternity. God places people and situations in your path to help you grow closer to Him. Even though it seems I get it wrong more times that I get it right, I pray that my motives remain pure and my heart is always in the right place.

I am learning to forgive people for letting me down, and hold myself to a higher standard than I hold others. When confronted with difficult situations, I am trying to use the pain to examine myself and grow closer to God. I need to be better at turning the other cheek when people accuse me of doing the very things they are doing to me. I need to only be concerned about my growth and leave it to God to convict other people.

I would rather follow God by loving others and hopefully encouraging them in some way. A life filled with unsuccessful attempts being involved in the messiness of others is better than remaining alone in my glass house. I suspect I will continue to befriend people that may defy logic and reason. I trust that God is leading me in that direction, He will continue to carry me through the process, and He will ultimately be glorified as a result. All I have to do is seek Him and feel my way towards Him. He is right there waiting for me…

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, (Acts 17:26-27 ESV).”

Navigating Life – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, KJV)

These are the lyrics of the song “Turn Turn Turn” made famous by the Byrds’. As I mentioned in my introduction to this study, I loved hearing this song performed by a church praise team several years ago. I later learned that the lyrics of the song are identical to the King James translation of this scripture, with the exception of the title phrase and the last line, referring to peace, “I swear it’s not too late”. It’s incredibly cool that a mainstream rock band chose to sing a song straight from the Bible! Even today, I love how contestants on American Idol and other pop-culture musicians have embraced contemporary Christian music. This genre may not be mainstream, but it’s wonderful to see so many younger musicians with a heart for God’s Word.

When I read these eight verses, I see a picture of life. There are fourteen pairs of actions that are polar opposites of each other. The order was discussed briefly in the commentary, but I don’t feel arrangement is the major takeaway, other than the first pair being about life and death; the ultimate extremes of the mortal life. The remaining pairs describe events that may occur in each of our lives on earth. Is the focus of this passage really meant to be on world peace, as the song suggests? I’m not so sure – if anything, I would take it to mean eternal peace, as there will not be peace on earth during our lifetimes.

I was thinking about these verses, in the context of my life, and I couldn’t help but tie it to interpersonal relationships. As I mentioned, to me, these verses paint a picture of our mortal lives. During our time on earth, experiences will take us from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. There will be times when we are enjoying every aspect of life and everything seems to be clicking. Our lives are fruitful; we are full of joy and hope, knowing nothing is impossible with God. However, there will also be times in life when we are questioning God’s plan, as we struggle through periods of darkness and hopelessness. It doesn’t matter who we are or how much control we think we have over our lives, every one of us will experience each of these extremes at some point in our life.

Luckily, the timing of the highs and lows will likely not be the same for everyone. This brings up the importance of authentic relationships! We were not created to live in isolation; we were designed to interact with other people – and these relationships are necessary to help us through the rough patches in our lives. The truth is, we need other people and other people need us! And, this needing is more than a “Hey, how are you?” “I’m fine.” We need to be emotionally invested in the lives of others, and allow others to know who we truly are, without our masks.

It’s pretty safe to say that we are pre-wired to be this way. As a culture, we love to gossip and we seem obsessed with reality television. We are clearly interested in the lives of others, but we sometimes like to do so from an arms-length to (I believe) keep our feelings in check. We enjoy the good parts without allowing ourselves to experience the pain. We can use other people’s experiences to feel better about ourselves without having to show our own ugly parts. However, I believe we were called for more.

The truth is, reality television would be unnecessary if we fully immersed ourselves in the reality of people within our circle of influence. We can help our friends through their difficulties and share their joy in the good times. They can do the same for us. The benefit is that no one needs to feel they are in this alone. Having close relationships is definitely a win-win situation for everyone.

God is showing me so many things through the lives of others. Most importantly, he’s teaching me how to love unconditionally. I certainly don’t like to see anyone go through a painful time, so seeing people near their rock-bottom completely breaks my heart. But, it also makes me want to do whatever I can to encourage, help, and share their pain. I also have the amazing privilege of sharing in their victories as God helps them overcome the darkness they are experiencing.

One of my friends has impressed me with her faith and perseverance through a horrible situation. I can clearly see the hand of God in her life, maybe better than she can at this point, and how He’s helping her grow and gain wisdom. It’s a truly amazing thing and such a blessing, hopefully in both of our lives!

I love how God brings people together at the exact moment they need each other. I treasure my friends who are always there for me when I am weak, and I pray that God will continue use me to help others when they are struggling. We really aren’t in this alone; we do need each other! Together, with God’s help, we can persevere and grow, with joy, throughout all of the seasons of our life!

When asked by a scribe what the most important commandment was, Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:29-31).”

The Vanity of Toil – Ecclesiastes 2:18-26

“I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind (Ecclesiastes 2:18-26 ESV).”

I am blessed to have a great job, working with many coworkers who are believers in Christ. This makes the day generally go very smoothly, although we are never without challenge. The nature of our work is meaningful, and that definitely helps with our overall focus and moral. However, there are days when frustration seems to loom at every corner, and I’m being pulled in multiple directions!

I have always been diligent in my work and strive to give everything my absolute best effort. While I achieve separation between my work and personal life, I have always been incredibly passionate about my career. If I have unresolved work problems, I think about them and research them, even when I’m at home. It’s hard for me to turn my brain off, so much so that I used to really struggle with sleeping.

I can definitely relate to the Qohelet’s words regarding “the one who comes after me.” Honestly, this would trouble me from time to time. I have even wasted energy worrying if all of my striving will end up meaningless because “the one who comes after me” did not continue in my legacy.

That sounds so terrible, just to type it – that I could think so highly of myself to feel that only *I* could do a good job; my way was better than everyone else’s! Part of me worried that “the one who comes after me” will be negligent and erase the progress I’ve made, but the other part of me was concerned that they will find fault with my efforts. It’s silly, really, meaningless – a chasing after wind!

My job, while important, should not be the central focus of my life. One of the greatest aspects of my current job is that the day’s toil is over when I walk out the door at 4:00. I have never had a 9-5 type job before, and at first, I had to become acclimated to the structure, but I’ve really begun to appreciate the first ‘schedule’ I’ve ever had in the workplace!

I do not have a work laptop or cell phone, so I cannot work from home. This encourages me to be as productive as possible during my time at work, and then leave everything at the office when I am done for the day. At that point, I can go home and spend quality time with my friends, family, and God. This schedule has allowed me to start and end my day in the Word, and has really brought balance and peace to my previously chaotic life!

The Qohelet closes this chapter with a profound truth. The pursuit of anything on earth is meaningless when done in the absence of God. For without God, what does one gain? Personal strivings and victories do not last; everything that is accomplished will be erased by death.

Consider Adam and Eve… they pursued of wisdom apart from God. They were intrigued by the fact that there could be more to life and were drawn to the serpent’s temptations. Eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil essentially gave them exactly what they were seeking. They were illuminated to their nakedness and achieved separation from God. Their quest for wisdom brought sin and mortality for all generations to come.

It’s time to stop hiding from God. The only chance we have for true and perfect wisdom is through a maturing relationship with Christ. God will bring us wisdom, knowledge, and happiness if we live our lives for His glory. This doesn’t mean our lives will be perfect on earth, but if we focus our attention on our perfect God, our rewards will be amazing in heaven. We were created for God’s glory! I hope everyone will embrace this truth and life it out daily. A heart poured out for God and others is a beautiful expression of the love that He has given us.