Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come? No man has power over the wind to contain it; so no one has power over the day of his death. Ecclesiastes 8, verse 7.
Do you spend much time wondering about what’s in your future? I used to. In fact, I used to spend quite a lot of time alone thinking about things I wanted, or dreaming about things I would like to do or have. The farm dream was one of my favorites. I’ve lived most of my life in the city or the suburbs, and I’ve never lived on a farm. But I have always wanted to. The thought of living someplace where it is quiet and peaceful, where you can get up in the morning and smell the land; the thought of raising animals and vegetables, maybe owning an orchard or a vineyard; the idea of working hard on something I raised then selling good food to people: heaven to me. In fact, I kind of hope that my eternity involves living that way, living on a farm someplace and working the land for Him above.
Will that ever happen? I have no idea. Really don’t. The dream is a great pastime, one that distracts from the way things are and replaces them with the way that I wish things could be. Is that really helpful, though? Will it happen? I really don’t know.
Do you? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Please don’t feel bad. Just join the crowd with the rest of us who are doing our best to live in the present. We’re supposed to live today, not in regret over yesterday or all constipated over what might or might not happen tomorrow.
I get a chuckle when my kids tell me “Gretchen thinks…” or “I know Sammie is gonna…” or “Dillon wants to…” as if they can tell the future. They’re mind-readers, and they can tell what their siblings are thinking or what will happen in the next five minutes. As I have grown as a parent, I’ve had to remind myself that I’m not a mind-reader either, and while it’s sometimes helpful to be able to predict what people will do, by and large, I don’t know what my kids (or anyone) are thinking or planning any more than they do. Whether you’re talking about political polls, sports picks, trying to predict how the PTA will vote, or what your spouse will say when you tell them that you want to buy a mushroom farm in Oregon, you probably don’t really know what they’ll say or how they’ll react. You’re really only able to make educated guesses.
Welcome to living in grace. We’re living in the world our Maker created for us, where we don’t have access to the Tree of Life because our ancestors already chose the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. We chose to try to be better than God and we continually make that same choice. It’s simply part of our nature now. Part of that means not knowing really what’s up ahead. If you think about it, that’s a good thing.
In this verse, I like the comparison over controlling the wind versus controlling death. You & I have each known plenty of people who worried about death. Remember the movie “Moonstruck,” where Olympia Dukakis’ character is trying to figure out why her husband is straying? She spends the entire movie asking men in her life “why do men cheat,” wanting to hear them say “because they fear death.” Isn’t that the truth, though (or at least an understandable explanation of a primary motivation)? Isn’t that the way it has been since the Garden of Eden? We chose sin, and because we’re conscious of the penalty for sin, we choose more of it, thinking we can evade that penalty. That choice ends up being a whole bunch of nothing. Just as we can’t bottle the wind, so we can’t bottle the time of our death. Only God knows where and when each of them blow through our lives.
Here’s the good news: you and I don’t need to worry about tomorrow. Christ exhorted his followers to not worry, to not make worrying about what could be more important than faith in He who is here and now. Years before that, He inspired Solomon to record that “whoever obeys his command will come to no harm, and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure.” Do not worry about what might happen. Simply obey God’s commands to love Him fully and live out that love in whatever we do. Don’t worry about death because He already defeated death. What we couldn’t do because of that long-ago choice, He did and undid the spiritual damnation that was the ultimate penalty. There’s no need to worry about it.
No, I don’t spend much time day-dreaming these days. This fall is busy in my house anyway. My wife and I have been working long hours, earning up time and money to pay for our daughter’s wedding this December. We’re trying to be more actively engaged in our kids’ lives now that they’re mostly grown. Our heads are in the here and now while doing our best to prepare for tomorrow. That preparation thankfully doesn’t involve worrying about it because we both know we have faith and that we’re doing our best. Sure, there are frustrating times when her work is overwhelming, my work out of state is difficult, and the money tree seems to have dropped all its leaves earlier this year when we really wanted a later harvest. Earlier this month I drove across country, logging five thousand miles in just under two weeks for family time and work alike. I didn’t spend much time day-dreaming, though, or self-talking my way through plans I desire for a home by a lake or a farm in the country. My business was more at hand, in the there and then…just as today will be in the here and now. I have faith that God is with me and that he’s blessed and prepared me for whatever comes my way in life, good or bad.