We all love happy endings. We come to the end of the book or the movie and evil is defeated, the hero perseveres, and they all live happily ever after. But that was not the case for one movie that my wife and I watched several years ago. We got to the end of the movie and discover the bad guy wins! The good guy dies after being framed for a crime he did not commit and the real villain escapes. I won’t give away the title in order to give you the opportunity of experiencing the frustration I felt at the end.
Sometimes life can be a lot like this particular movie. The ending is not what we expect. We spend years getting a good education only to find out that no one is hiring. We work hard for our boss and still get passed over for the promotion. We save our money only to have it lost in an economic downturn. We take care of our bodies and eat healthy only to still get cancer.
It is no wonder the author of Ecclesiastes opens the book with “vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” In the original language the word vanity means smoke or vapor. It is describing the fleeting nature of life. It quickly passes away. But it also describes how life often lacks substance. We do our part in life expecting a certain outcome only to be met with frustrating results.
And so, are we left to simply agree that life is meaningless? It depends on our perspective. The author pens these words from the viewpoint of “under the sun.” In other words life is vanity from a merely human or physical perspective. But from a spiritual point of view that recognizes a sovereign, good, and loving God the outlook on life changes drastically.
Therefore, Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 gives us a solemn warning. If we seek to find our joy, meaning, and happiness in the things of this life, we will be greatly disappointed. The things of this world simply cannot satisfy the cravings of our hearts. They will all eventually fail us.
But God will not. God is an inexhaustible source of joy and the only one who can meet our needs. As a result we are reminded of the importance of finding our joy and hope fully in Him. But we are also reminded of the importance of trusting Him through the difficulties of life. When the end is not what we expected or hoped for we continue to trust that His plan for us is perfect. He is always working all things together for our good and His glory.