A recent experience of having a category three tornado less than eight miles from our home gave me a realistic moment of thinking. “This could be it! God, please protect me.” Next, I thought about what if this was the end? What if life was over for me and I had no more time to right the wrongs, to stop the sin patterns, to serve others, to love my husband and family and friends? What did I do with my years that God has given to me? Would they be judged by Him as for His glory or for mine? What was my motive for living life, getting married, raising children, having a counseling career, serving in the church?
As the firehouse horn blared and the AccuWeather app on my phone kept pinging, in a matter of a minute, so many thoughts flew through my mind. My mind then rested on King Solomon’s writing of his life and learning that we need to pursue living for God, fill our emptiness with God, work heartily for God, understand that we all die – righteous and evil – and that in the end God will judge all that we have done.
The storm passed, and all was well, but the debris in my heart was stirred up. I needed to re-examine myself. I decided to look into the book of Ecclesiastes which informs us of how to live a full and meaningful life.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.
The Amplified Version states verses 13 and 14 as:
All has been heard; the end of the matter is: Fear God [revere and worship Him, knowing that He is] and keep His commandments, for this is the whole of man [the full, original purpose of his creation, the object of God’s providence, the root of character, the foundation of all happiness, the adjustment to all inharmonious circumstances and conditions under the sun] and the whole [duty] for every man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it is good or evil.
King Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, sorted through all the things he did to be wise, to have pleasure, to understand good and evil, and to find meaning in life. At the end, looking back, he decided that without God nothing is/was worthwhile. When he was first made king, he was asked by God what he wanted, and Solomon responded, “Wisdom.” King Solomon had it all: wisdom, power, prosperity, respect of other kings and nations, anything he desired was attainable, and God allowed him to use it as he pleased. Yet, at the end, he saw that everything that he purposed without being founded on God left him empty, looking for something else to fill the emptiness.
The twelve chapters of Ecclesiastes are as poignant today as they were when King Solomon penned them. People today are still searching through all kinds of worldly pleasure or happiness to fill the void when God is not first. We are never satisfied with what we have until we find contentment in God.
Ecclesiastes 1:8-10 All things are wearisome; man is not able to tell it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear filled with hearing. That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one might say, “See this, it is new”? Already it has existed for ages which were before us.
We may ask ourselves today: “If I am in God’s will, why am I so tired, unfulfilled, restless?” “What is my purpose in life?” “Why am I so disillusioned, empty, dissatisfied?” Solomon writes that nothing is new. When we die, all will go on, and eventually, even if some city or country is named after us, we will be forgotten.
We can devote ourselves to finding wisdom. We can read the Scriptures hour upon hour, learning, discerning, teaching, and preaching, and still remain unsatisfied. Wisdom alone cannot guarantee eternal life because the wise and the foolish all die just the same (Ecc. 2:12-16).
We drive ourselves either to be immersed in our work, toiling and striving to better ourselves and bank accounts or to sort of give up and be lazy and just figure that work is futile and does not really accomplish anything. Both of these are ungodly. Solomon states that he built up so many wonderful accomplishments during his life, but when he dies, what will remain? After time, all will be gone or ruined (Ecc. 2:18-23). He tried being lazy, sleeping day and night. That profited nothing also.
What then are we to do to have true wisdom, meaning, and purpose in this life?
Prov. 9:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
True wisdom is to see life from God’s perspective and then to know the way to apply it God’s way. It is not enough just to know God; we need to love and trust Him, which we do when we know of Him. When we learn what the Scriptures say about God, we will then understand more about life and be able to live within His purposes and plans.
Solomon advises us to work heartily but not overly so and not to be lazy but productive, using our abilities for God’s purposes. Any work or pleasure we have is to be rooted in our desire to please God, having Him first, and praising Him. If we are stymied due to waiting on God’s direction, Solomon says this thought:
Ecc. 11:4 He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap.Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things.Sow your seed in the morning and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good.
We are to get busy having God first and not worry about the minutia or the “perfect” thing to do. When we are about praising and trusting God, our plans and purposes are His, and He will bring to pass that which He desires.
In chapter 12, King Solomon concludes that those who lack purpose and direction in life need to follow Proverbs 10:9 and fear God and also to obey Him. Those who see life as unfair and ask why others prosper and others have such pain are admonished to remember that God will judge our every deed, not on whether we suffered or had plenty. We all have trials, and we all have the same free will to choose to have God first.
During the storm that was near to me and our home, I never had a drop of rain or one piece of hail, but damage was done to some electrical systems due to one thunderous clap of very close lightning. The realization came that precious life can be cut short and that without having God first − my meaning and purpose − all that I have done and will do will become as wood, hay, and stubble which will be burned up. Praising, loving, and trusting God faithfully every day in everything we do, say, and feel will bring us to our judgment day, not only having a rich and fulfilled life now (no matter what our circumstances are), but also blessing God with a holy life that was lived for Him.