If the title has raised some eyebrows, or has made you cynical or wary for some reasons, then most likely you are reading this right now. Just who is this woman trying to say that everything is meaningless?
Am I not invalidating the toils and sweat and tears of those who struggle to make a living? Or, am I not discrediting all the good deeds of my fellowmen with kindred spirits throughout history?
For goodness’ sake, no.
But for King Solomon, he had all the guts (and glory) to proclaim that everything on earth is completely and utterly meaningless!
“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!”
What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea. Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.
History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now. (Ecclesiastes 1:1-11)
The melancholic mood of Ecclesiastes is so great and articulate that when one gets to read this account of King Solomon, there may either be wonder, confusion, or curiosity lingering in our minds. If King Solomon really had “everything” then- unparalleled wisdom, great wealth, and fame- then what made him come to the conclusion that everything is actually meaningless?
For starters, King Solomon, amidst all the splendors of worldly pleasures and possessions, was saying that all things in this world are just temporary and fleeting. All things, i.e., material possessions, money, beauty, popularity, career, achievements, and trials, difficulties, hardships, pain, suffering, and misery alike, will all soon fade. Even life itself will pass away (Matthew 24:35, Psalm 103:15). He presents that reality that we are mortals and all that is on earth will soon vanish. Hence, “meaningless”, like a chasing after the wind (Ecclesiastes 1:14).
He is asserting mortals’ need for something or someone who is imperishable or relentless. One that is persisting and enduring throughout the ages. Solomon is pertaining to the One who has an endless existence and essence. Every part of his Ecclesiastes account portrays the stark contrast between the mortality, limitation, and helplessness of man and the endlessness, power, and greatness of God.
I, for one, have spoken these for a few number of times, “Bakit paulit-ulit na lang? Wala nang katapusan. Para tayong mundo, paikot-ikot lang.” (“Why does this happen again and again? It seems to be never-ending. We’re like earth on its orbit, going round in circles with no end.”). When I heard myself crying out in consternation, I remembered the king of Israel. I concede to his words.
History merely repeats itself. I believe that I am not the only one in the boat, many of us are in the same boat. We go through a great deal of trials and heartaches and difficulties, and they are inevitable. Our forefathers themselves also experienced the circumstances we are facing today. Ever since time began, human beings all have felt happiness and sadness alike, peacefulness and anger, or fulfillment and frustration. Nothing is really new.
Now, who am I really to complain about the pursuit of human life? Even the wise King Solomon was not spared from the mundaneness and “senselessness” of earthly existence. Thousands of years have gone by since he reigned in Israel, and here I am, seeing these temporal circumstances as nothing more than ordinary and repetitive.
Nevertheless, I am more greatly filled with gratitude and content that in the midst of these tedious life processes, there is Someone who never ceases to give me a new heart each time I am weary. God’s grace for me is new everyday and His love for me never changes. I know that there is an end to these seemingly perpetual worldly undertakings, and, when that time comes, one thing is for sure will never end- my praise and worship before His revealed glory.