I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on men: God gives a man wealth, possessions and honor, so that he lacks nothing his heart desires, but God does not enable him to enjoy them, and a stranger enjoys them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil. Ecclesiastes 6, verses 1 and 2.
Have you ever lost the girl (or the guy)? I mean, have you ever invested so much of yourself in a relationship only to see it fall apart and watch that special someone walk away and pursue happiness with somebody else? Or a job: have you ever done a job well, then had someone else take credit for it. Worse, have you ever had the fruit of that job taken away and handed to someone else? Just at the point when you’re succeeding, “Joe” is given your project and you’re moved on to something else. Or have you ever worked hard for a goal only to find that it didn’t really satisfy you? Maybe you’re at a celebration for something good you did (or that was done) and while others are reveling, you’re feeling kind of empty? Or what about your bank account? Have you ever saved for something, had a goal, and gotten close to it only to realize that something else takes priority and something else must now ‘enjoy’ the profits of your savings? To me, this is pretty common when you’re raising teenagers.
Been there done that; haven’t we all? In a world at war with itself it may indeed seem that the best we can expect is to eat, drink and be merry. But those things can leave us feeling hollow. We strive, we earn, we struggle, we work our butts off and just at the time when we should appreciate these things…we don’t. It’s not that we don’t want to: it’s that we don’t. “I keep looking.” That’s a Sara Evans song in which she sings “every time I get what I want I get unsatisfied.”
It could be my life’s story. To be frank, it almost seems like a cruel joke, like God is laughing at me. To be even more frank, it makes me understand where people are coming from when they think God is set against them. He blesses us with talent and we use it and we succeed. He answers our prayers; we get what we want; our wishes are granted; our dreams come true. Couch it any way you like: at the height of success we find that it isn’t enough. Just like Ms Evans, when we get what we want we get unsatisfied.
Maybe the underlying issue is us. If you re-read that last paragraph it’s full of “we,” our” and me. I think that means we’re on to something. It means we’ve fallen for the deception and God doesn’t deceive.
The way I read these verses that start chapter six, they are an acknowledgement that our success comes from God but that our dissatisfaction doesn’t. Mind you, there is something that can be healthy about always striving to do better, to always seek better quality even in our best accomplishments. Analyzing room for improvement is a productive exercise. The more you do it, the more you see that we are all imperfect and we can all always do better. The trick in doing it successfully, however, is to not focus on us as being the goal. If we’re striving to improve, then identify what needs to be improved and why. Do so for the larger good, for the good of the whole. Better than that, do so for somebody else, to improve someone else’s lot, someone else’s outcome. And even better than this, strive for improvement and excellence because it’s for God.
Perhaps when we realize that ‘we’ are the focus it then becomes a good time for Psalm 46: be still and know that I am God. The way to turn the focus away from me is to step back, focus on Him, and find your center that way. He is always talking; He is always transmitting even when we don’t see or hear it. Even the moments when He is seemingly silent are a message. The trick is learning how to recognize and decipher those, and that always starts with being still. Take self and transform it with selflessness. That’s what God did for us.
The way to beat back the grievous evil of dissatisfaction? Be still and know that He is God. In my experience, it’s also the only way to handle those situations when you lose the girl, lose the credit, find your goals are hollow, or your bank account empty. What the verse says is true in that these things can be a grievous evil, one that keeps us up at night. I wonder if it isn’t also the reason why you find both rich and poor equally dissatisfied. The way around that is to go through God. Be still, be quiet for a little while, and just listen. He will let you know the right way to move forward in His good and proper time.