“I Thought to Myself”: Losing Life’s Meaning


I thought to myself,
‘I have become much wiser than any of my predecessors who ruled over Jerusalem; I have acquired much wisdom and knowledge.’
So I decided to discern the benefit of wisdom and knowledge over foolish behavior and ideas; however, I concluded that even this endeavor is like trying to chase the wind!
For with great wisdom comes great frustration; whoever increases his knowledge merely increases his heartache.
When I tried to gain wisdom and to observe the activity on earth – even though it prevents anyone from sleeping day or night – then I discerned all that God has done: No one really comprehends what happens on earth.
Despite all human efforts to discover it, no one can ever grasp it.
Even if a wise person claimed that he understood, he would not really comprehend it.

Then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out.
Be warned, my son …
There is no end to the making of many books, and much study is exhausting to the body.

King Solomon, Ecclesiastes

No one knows everything about everything. I would say that most know a little about some things, though there are a few who know more about many things.

I confess my own limited knowledge about most things. Even in my own family, I recognize this. For example, my son’s engineering mind goes beyond my comprehension. I don’t get most of what he’s talking about in his field of study. Honestly, I am not sure I ever could. But it doesn’t cause me anxiety that he knows and understands things I don’t. I am thankful that he will be able to accomplish what I never will. It was by design that we each have capacities for knowing things that others don’t.

The people who inhabit the world that God created are fearfully and wonderfully made. Mankind has been gifted the capacity to comprehend all kinds of things from anthropology to zoology. (There are studies – literally – from A-Z). It’s amazing! I appreciate that there are those who are considered experts in their fields. Many have used their minds, and their capacity to learn, to enhance our world.
But even with breakthroughs in science, and advancements in medicine, and discoveries through archaeology or geology, there’s much more to learn. And then there’s that bothersome occurrence of rediscovery. Sometimes we realize that what we thought was new was actually not. Oh, and THEN some of what we “learn” is revised or updated or totally invalidated by a new finding … well, until it’s validated again.

I confess that I sometimes feel angst when I read arguments by people who state their opinions in such a confident (I’d call it arrogant) way that it appears they pause at a certain point … you know, waiting for the mic drop.
It’s as if they have the final answer. And since no one steps forward with a suitable rebuttal at that moment, there’s the sense that they have provided the zinger.

And that’s when I must stop and pray. The World Wide Web has so distorted and short-circuited knowledge, that we now consider ourselves students of a subject when we’ve simply read someone’s position or opinion on a matter. Beyond that, many people share their thoughts as if they are the teachers – the experts.
I recently decided to take a deep breath and remember … that having answers isn’t indicative of all wisdom.
Solomon seemed to wrestle with this as he observed man. And people have wrestled with this before and since Solomon. Our downfall, as humans, has been that we’ve wanted to be the smartest since the very beginning (Gen 3, Roman 5). But we’ve looked for the answer in all the wrong places.

Paul made some observations of his own about people who were seeking in his day (Acts 17). Under the inspiration of the Spirit, Paul expressed that God created us to be seekers. Seekers of Himself!

From one man He made every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth, determining their set times and the fixed limits of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope around for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.

For in Him we live and move about and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are His offspring.’
So since we are God’s offspring, we should not think the deity is like gold or silver or stone, an image made by human skill and imagination.

I have realized (with the help of my hubby’s prompting) that fretting over everyone’s questions is not my duty. People have questioned God and His ways since the very beginning. While some questions genuinely spring from a heart of wonder or lack of understanding, many questions arise because the tempter plants seeds of doubt about who God is and what He has said. And then he cunningly convinces us to actually reject truth that doesn’t sound right to us. (Genesis 3)
Possibly Solomon began to “believe his own press.” He began trusting in his wisdom rather than God’s, leading him to depression and a life of meaningless existence.

People make sudden shifts in their lives in an attempt to find joy. If we are not careful and wise, we can linger too long at the “Vanity Fair of Knowledge” only to miss out on the wisdom of God and on a life that is really worth living. This is another lesson for those who live life “under the sun.” Some of us have stayed too long at various Vanity Fairs in life (knowledge, power, sex, popularity, wealth); we have played the fool and given our lives to the wrong things.
Knowledge is not the same as wisdom. It is possible to be smart but not intelligent. It is possible to know a lot but not be wise. God’s design for our lives is not to make us smart sinners but godly saints!
By repenting from our vanity and turning in faith to Him, He redeems us and gives us a new and meaningful life. There is something “new under the sun” – those who are made new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17).

“When everything is said and done,” (Solomon) it is not the job of the Christian to give people moral or psychological pep talks about how to get along in the world; someone else can do that . . . Most people have no one in the world to tell them about the supreme beauty and majesty of God, found in the glory of Jesus Christ, the “one Shepherd,” who is the very face of God.
Solomon says that at the end of it all is a twofold conclusion: (1) fear God and (2) keep His commands. Trust Him and then obey Him. The order is crucial. Fearing God means to put God in His proper place, us in our proper place, and all fears, hopes, dreams, and agendas in their proper place. The clear and consistent teaching and encouragement of the Word of God is essential if this is to take place. Keeping His commandments means obeying Him out of love and respect for who He is and what He has done. And it must be in this order: I am accepted; therefore, I obey! It is not, I obey so that I can be accepted. He loved me first! I now love and serve Him in grateful response!

(Exalting Jesus in Ecclesiastes, Dr. Daniel Akin)

I’m thankful for Solomon, the seeker. A very wise man with lots of questions. I am most thankful for his final conclusion that gives me abiding peace.
And soulful rest.

Having heard everything, I have reached this conclusion:
Fear God and keep His commandments, because this is the whole duty of man.
For God will evaluate every deed, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.
Solomon, a wise King


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