“I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless – like chasing the wind.”
– Ecclesiastes 1:14
Before you start to get depressed and close your browser, hear me out. I never really understood the book of Ecclesiastes. Here it sits in the bible, right after Proverbs. Proverbs is practical, a manual of sorts. It lays out wise principles on how to live your best life, how to be successful, how to make things go well for you.
Then comes Ecclesiastes, right after you’ve read all these tidbits of wisdom and you feel like you’ve got a handle on how to live life, and Ecclesiastes just shatters that. Everything is meaningless, the Author says. Everything is wearisome. We are born, then we die and we are forgotten. Nothing is new. History repeats itself. Life your life and enjoy it while you can.
Seriously? Great message for those of us with depression and anxiety.
It’s a book I’ve often avoided when I’m reading through my bible, but I have a different take on it this time around.
Yes, it deals with some heavy stuff and, honestly, maybe the author was slightly depressed. I think it’s ok to admit that life can be depressing sometimes, but we don’t want to unpack and live there.
After reading Ecclesiastes through again, what I’ve gathered this time around is this: The book is really talking more about our control than anything else. Sometimes, the author seems to ramble and say contradictory things, which is why, in the past, it’s been frustrating for me to read. But, when you get down to it, and you look at the whole of the book, along with the other books of the bible (like Proverbs), you see that it’s really about giving up control. Letting go.
Modern Psychology should love this book. So should Buddhism. The idea of acceptance, letting go and living in the moment is not new. And, these are good principles, but those things by themselves are still depressing. Those things alone don’t bring me the kind of meaning and peace I’m looking for.
I need something more.
Ecclesiastes is about the unpredictability of life. The book recognizes the joy and beauty in the world, but also the temporal aspect, the seemingly randomness that occurs, like a tragic car accident or a house fire or an earthquake. We can live our life the best way we know how, we can ask God for wisdom and strength, but life can still end in an instant.
So, what are we to do? Are you still with me?
We are to accept that there are things we cannot control, yes. We are to live in the moment and enjoy life, yes. But that alone feels like a pretty meaningless existence to me and it doesn’t really align with what the rest of the Bible has to say.
Here’s what I think the message is: Life is super complex and we only understand a fraction of it, but thankfully, we are not in charge. Thankfully, there is someone far greater than us who is in charge, someone who does understand the full picture, who is good and perfect and who loves us and has a plan for us. He is someone we can trust fully and completely with all of our uncertainty and angst, someone, who will one day right all the wrongs of this imperfect, terrible, beautiful world.
Doesn’t that take an enormous amount of pressure off of us? We have limits and we can’t predict what’s going to happen, but it’s incredibly comforting to be able to let go of that control and leave it in the hands of a God who has no limits, no constraints, who sees the full picture in its entirety.
Letting go. Easier said than done right? Especially for those of us with anxiety but this isn’t a message of helplessness or hopelessness or hedonism. Sure, enjoy the blessings of this life and accept what you can’t change, but we aren’t simply pawns in a massive game of chess. We can ask the all-wise, all-mighty, all-powerful God, the One in charge of it all, for wisdom when it comes to decisions and the right way to live and He will help us. He will guide us. He will sustain us when things get hard, and, He will fix it all one day.
For me, that’s an incredibly freeing and comforting thought. I don’t have to have it all figured out. I don’t have to be perfect. I am free to enjoy the good things in life that God allows me to have and when things do get scary and confusing, I can run to Him for comfort and guidance.
Life is not meaningless, but it is complex, and it doesn’t always make sense to us, and that is actually ok.
No pressure. I can let go and live in peace.