Sometimes, it is just so hard to read the Bible.
Because sometimes, life just makes no sense.
No matter how hard you try, no matter what your thoughts and imagination come up with, life is a mystery.
This morning I started reading the Book of Ecclesiastes. In case you are unfamiliar with this book, it is written by Solomon, a king in long ago Israel. He is considered to be the wisest man ever to live. (although I sometimes wonder about that, given the fact that he had 700 wives and 300 concubines. How crazy is that?).
In this book, Solomon tries to find the meaning of life amidst the struggles, trials, disappointments we all experience. We have shattered dreams and broken promises. We experience the loss of someone we love. Where is meaning in any of this?
Solomon writes in the second sentence of this book, "Everything is meaningless, completely meaningless".
Is life really meaningless?
I hope not. Actually, I truly believe that life can be very meaningful.
But life is often not understandable.
Solomon asks the question that so many of us have asked ourselves:
"What do people get for all their hard work under the sun?"
Sure, we receive monetary compensation. Even that seems a bit unfair. There are HUGE discrepancies in our world in how we are paid. Some people make unbelievable sums of money- for instance some pro sports players, actors, musicians, CEO's of large companies. While there are others who are scantily paid, who literally work their asses of to provide something for their families.
I often contemplate on the fact that I was born in the United States. Why me? Why have I been given countless opportunities and blessings that so many in the world have not? If you have ever travelled to a third world country, you know what I mean.
I am trying to figure out how to pay for new carpet in my home-which mind you is grandiose next to a mud hut in the jungles or a pile of tin put together to house a family in sub-Saharan Africa. Where is there justice in that? And how often do I, or do you, complain that we don't have the latest technology gadget, when 7/8 of the world is struggling to put one meal on the table?
I struggled as I read a few chapters this morning from this small book of Ecclesiastes.
In the second chapter of the book, Solomon decides to seek pleasure to see if that will satisfy him.
How many of us have done that trying to find meaning in life?
Solomon had it all. Wine, women and possessions.
Because of his wealth, he could have anything he wanted-and he did.
But after awhile, pleasure too, had no meaning for him.
Have you felt that way?
We might not have everything that we want, but we might have indulged ourselves with one fun thing after another, and yet we still are seeking happiness and fulfillment. Although we might try to convince ourselves that life is wonderful; if everything was taken away, would we still believe that?
Is life just supposed to be about pleasure and indulging our whims?
I don't think so.
I think we Americans easily can buy into that lie.
We plan vacations to incredible places to experience things we never have. Only to find ourselves needing a vacation from our vacation.
We all know that life isn't fair.
If you don't know that yet, trust me-you will someday.
Solomon's little book produced quite a bit of anguish in me today.
Why do I have it so good? Why don't I continually realize how blessed I have been?
Why do I avoid certain news stories because I don't want to think about it or don't want to feel guilty yet again?
How do I find purpose in my everyday life?
How can I make this world a better place?
What can I do?
These are the questions that we all need to ask ourselves.
These questions are the ones my college age friends are pursuing, trying to make sense out of a life that doesn't seem to make sense. This generation of young people seem to care more about making a difference than making money. A majority of them are wanting to live like this, thinking this way.
Those types of questions are being asked world wide. Not just here in the United States.
I know that young people in India, in China, Afghanistan, the former Soviet Union, in Uganda and Kenya and South Africa, in Chile and Brazil and San Salvador- young people everywhere are asking about what is the meaning of life?
These are the questions Solomon asked. The wisest man to ever live, pondered this with depth.
We had a dear friend named Bob Martin, who often said, "Life doesn't make sense apart from Jesus."
I think that Solomon came to that same revelation too.
My next few blogs will be some of my own observations from the book of Ecclesiastes. I am so grateful that someone so much smarter than me, struggled with some of the exact same questions that I have had. And that even when the Bible becomes so difficult to read, there always is some deep revelations waiting to become discovered.