Is Life Meaningless?

I have spent some time in Ecclesiastes lately and have been wondering, is it true that there isn’t anything new under the sun?  Is all the flurry of activity in life, particularly in my own life, meaningless vanity?

I am wondering if the things that fill my life are placed there by me or placed there by God.  And how am I supposed to know the difference?

I am realizing more and more the limits of being human.  There are only so many hours in a day, 8 of those I should be sleeping, so what do I do with the other 16 hours?  There are so many responsibilities that need to be addressed, there are so many problems to be solved, there are so many exciting new initiatives to join or activities to get involved in, but with only 16 hours to give, who/what gets them? And how do I discern the best right answer?

I think in general we all want to feel that we are making a meaningful contribution in life.  But how can we truly know the time we are investing is meaningful?  Who determines meaning?  I am fascinated by Solomon’s quest for meaning.  See if you can relate:

1 I thought in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. 2 “Laughter,” I said, “is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?” 3 I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives.

4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem [a] as well—the delights of the heart of man. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. 11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 2:1-11

Time is a funny thing.  We are only given a small amount of time to make a meaningful impact on this Earth, and no one knows exactly how much time they will be given.  Time is one of the few things we can’t control and are always left wanting more.  More time to finish that project.  More time to work on a relationship.  More time with a client to close a deal.  More time off.  More time to think.  More time to relax.  More time at the beach.  More time to campaign.  More time to invest.  More time, more time, more time.

But Solomon, wise man that he was, realized that none of this meaningless toil, which we think we need more time to achieve or complete or secure for ourselves, has any lasting meaning.  Solomon goes on for 12 chapters about the meaningless vanity, the chasing after the wind, that is striving, toil, labor, work, profit, gain, pleasure, all for the sake of ourselves , for the sake of Making a Name for Ourselves Upon the Earth.

Ecclesiastes 2:17-23 says:

17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. 20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21 For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? 23 All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.

Where is the meaning?  Where is the lasting impact?

I thought through this for many hours this weekend.  I thought and I prayed and I asked God- what in my life has meaning?  What in my life is not chasing after the wind?  And I began to realize that there were many many good things in my life that were meaningless.  There are things in my life with no lasting, meaningful impact and I began to despair.  Wondering like a college freshman “what then is my purpose?”

And then, the thought occurred to me: “Don’t waste your life.”

A phrase I have heard many times, as an alumnus of the collegiate Passion Conferences, and a fan of Piper, “don’t waste your life” is a phrase that I have used often as a plumb line for the major decisions I have faced in life but it never occurred to me that “don’t waste your life” should also be the plumb line for the day-to-day decisions as well. And I confess to you that I have not weighed my daily duties on the scales of “don’t waste your life.”  And this is the reason, I believe, that I came face to face with meaninglessness.

After considering life for 12 chapters, Solomon ends Ecclesiastes with this:

13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:

Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

And then another thought occurred to me, another verse that I have often heard quoted in relationship to “don’t waste your life” and a verse that I will be teaching on this Wednesday at small group:

Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Then later in Philippians Paul says in chapter 3 “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ”

So finally, my dear reader, if you are actually still with me in the long long rambling stream of consciousness verbal processing blog post, the take away for me through this time of reflection is this:

In order to say “for me, to live is Christ and to die is Gain” and in order to authentically say “whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ”  I MUST REALIZE the meaninglessness of life APART FROM Christ.  I must realize the chasing after the wind that becomes the toil and striving of making a name for myself upon the earth.  I must realize that anything, any activity, good or bad, better or best, that I pursue APART from Christ is meaningless chasing after the wind.  And it for that reason that I consider all things rubbish that I may GAIN CHRIST.

I’m still thinking through this stuff.  And I could have it all wrong.  But what I do know is this:  Life apart from Christ is meaningless.  I crave meaning in life and do not want to waste the 16 waking hours in my day on things (even GOOD things) if they are not placed in my life by and for the sake of Christ.  Ive only got one life, I do not want to waste it.  I pray that I am not.  and I pray God will give me the discernment to choose the BEST and know beyond a shadow of a doubt what HE has placed in my life, for his sake, that will have a lasting, meaningful and eternal impact, all to the glory of God.

I will end this  post with a poem, author unknown, that speaks to me in ways I can’t fully tell you right now.  I would love to hear your thoughts and know how you are not wasting your own life.

Only Whats Done for Christ Will Last

Two little lines I heard one day, Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart, And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one, Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet, And stand before His Judgment seat;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice, Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave, And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years, Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill, living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore, When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way, Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me Father, a purpose deep, In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife, Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Oh let my love with fervor burn, And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone, Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one, Now let me say, “Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call, I know I’ll say “‘twas worth it all”;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Author Unknown

4 Comments Add yours

  1. jennyrain says:

    Good questions… I wrestle with some of the same stuff too.

    For me, the answer has come in realizing that first God is calling me to BE. And if that BEing is in stillness, that is cool. If it is in activity, that is cool too.

    For me, secondly, then God calls me to DO only as an expression of who He has called me to BE (He has called me to love Him – first – and love others out of the love that I share with Him)

    so now that I have muddied the waters even more, I will sign off. LOVE the post girl!

    1. AnnieLaurie says:

      Thanks Jenny! I love your thoughts on “God calls me to BE.” I love that. I am going to be pondering that now!! Thanks for sharing in the journey with me.

  2. davince says:

    “I MUST REALIZE the meaninglessness of life APART FROM Christ.”
    I don’t know but I’m wondering …………what does that statement mean? I must realize that anything, any activity, good or bad, better or best, that I pursue APART from Christ is meaningless chasing after the wind. And it for that reason that I consider all things rubbish that I may GAIN CHRIST.”
    What does it mean even to “GAIN CHRIST”? How can you measure quantitatively how much….more or less of Christ you have??…and how does the idea of Gaining Christ…whatever that means…..nullify the harsh reality that 99% of the things we engage in on this planet will not directly be related to the ultimate question of whether life is worth living??? Hope I’m making sense

    1. AnnieLaurie says:

      Hello, I am sorry for my delayed response. I am not exactly sure how to answer you… I am quoting the apostle Paul in Philippians 1:21 and 3:8 when I refer to gaining Christ. And in terms of your last statement relative to the activities we engage in on this planet… if we accept Jesus has savior and have the Holy Spirit, if we are thinking and living with eternity in mind, then I submit to you that every single activity we engage in on this planet has eternal significance and sometimes consequence. I probably am not the best person to explain all the “answers” in my life I have found that in some cases I just have to step out in faith and accept that I wont have everything figured out… but that the Bible is trustworthy and if you seek God you will find Him, he doesn’t hide himself from us. So I would encourage you to pray and take your questions to God. Also I would recommend finding a church in your area and a pastor who can help you sort through your questions. If you tell me where you live I can help to recommend a church! 🙂

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