In 1987, the popular, global Irish rock band, ‘U2’ recorded their critically acclaimed hit song, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”. The lead singer, Bono, referred to it as ‘a gospel song with a restless spirit, with its lyrics describing spiritual yearning.’ A music guru described it as a song about searching for meaning or transcendence. 

The author of Ecclesiastes, after a ‘no holds barred’ quest for the meaning of life comes to a similar conclusion, that everything in this life is ‘hevel’, that is, life is not so much meaningless as it is temporal and fleeting. Everything we work our butts off for doesn’t last, including the happiness we seek through falling in love and getting married, through gainful and meaningful employment, travelling, home ownership, having good friendships etc. It is not that if we choose God, then we must abandon happiness. That  is erroneous!  Rather, while happiness in and of itself is not a bad thing, it is fleeting and temporary, a ‘chasing after the wind’.

A response by a lady who was asked what it felt like to move into her brand-new spanking house encapsulates this sentiment. She said, “It still needs to be cleaned”. That is why happiness should not be your end goal in life. There is no lasting fulfillment in a fallen world from all of our blood, sweat and tears. We will all die one day and be forgotten.

However, as an author explains, “Far from being something that makes life in the present completely pointless, future death is a light God shines on the present to change it. Death can radically enable us to enjoy life. By relativizing all that we do in our days under the sun, death can change us from people who want to control life for gain into people who find joy in receiving life as a gift. This is the main message of Ecclesiastes in a nutshell; life in God’s world is a gift, not gain” (David Gibson).

God’s gifts are not meant to be a stepping stone to greater things but that they are their own reward. This is how the author of Ecclesiastes expresses it in chapter 2:24-25, “A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?”

This is not a nihilistic creed as Gibson notes, “When we accept in a deep way that we are going to die, that reality can stop us expecting too much from all the good things we pursue. We learn to pursue them for what they are in themselves rather than what we need them to be to make us happy… Instead of using these gifts as means to a greater end of securing ultimate gain in the world, we take the time to live inside the gifts themselves and see the hand of God in them”.

Christ in you, the hope of glory,