Only I couldn't because I identified so much with "the Teacher" who wrote Ecclesiastes! I've long identified my melancholic tendencies and my thinking that being a bit pessimistic about life will at least protect me from crushing disappointments. After all if you don't expect the best, you won't be crushed when the best never happens. Right? And, of course, if the best surprises us and comes, then whoop dee doo -- all the more reason to celebrate!
So I'm reading through Ecclesiastes thinking, "Wow, this is me. Yep, that sounds so true. Amen, Teacher, I hear ya!" And that was only through the first 5 chapters. Which I decided needed to be reread so I could absorb the message more and reflect on what is being said.
Now, I have been under biblical teaching long enough to know the writer starts his lesson one way yet comes to a great conclusion. But for now, I am going to write a few things from the chapters I've read so far, roughly the first half of the book.
The first words from the Teacher:
2 "Meaningless! Meaningless!"
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless."
Perhaps you are unlike me. You have children, a fulfilling job, delightful hobbies, lots of fun stuff to keep you hopping from morning 'til night when you fall into blissful slumber anticipating the new adventures awaiting your morning wake-up call. I realize many people are fulfilled in life and it seems especially that many mothers find this fulfillment in their children. Maybe not, but as I said it seems that way to me.
So anyway, I see the Teacher speaking of life. You get up, do your work, accumulate your stuff, dust your stuff, tend to your family, go to bed and then get up the next day and do it all over again. And the next day. And the next. Until you get to the weekend where the days have a bit more variety. Sometimes. But I see his point. I've thought the same way over the years, and maybe others have as well: "Is this all there is to life?"
The Teacher said he learned and acquired wisdom, he laughed, drank wine and embraced folly. (Have you embraced your folly today? Ha, ha.) He built houses, made gardens and parks and even acquired silver and gold, flocks and slaves -- all sorts of stuff. He said he denied himself nothing that his eyes desires and refused his heart no pleasures (Ecc. 2:10), yet he concluded:
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.
He also declared that all his learning was for naught because the same fate awaits the wise and the fool -- "Like the fool, the wise man too must die!" (Ecc. 2:14)
Like the Teacher, I have, at times, thought never having been born or death were preferable to life. (See Ecclesiastes 4:1-3). Don't worry though. In no way am I or have I ever been suicidal! :-) Life generally is very good and I have never thought I was not blessed. I have, indeed, been greatly favored by God! (This post is really about me during my not-focusing-on-the-blessings-of-God-and-salvation-offered-by-Jesus times.)
I don't agree with the Teacher's conclusions about animals and humans (see Ecc. 3:18-21) because I believe humans have souls. And, in reality, I don't believe the Teacher thought this way as well because in the third chapter, he speaks these beautiful words:
11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.
So I wonder if anyone out there ever feels as if she, too, is chasing the wind. I want this gift of God mentioned in verse 13. Paul wrote that he found contentment in every state or condition in which he found himself (Phil. 4:11). But how??
My Quest Bible did have this note on "what gives contentment." I thought it was worth sharing here:
Concluding that life was meaningless, the Teacher advised going after as much pleasure as possible. "Live life to the full," he seems to say. "Work hard and play hard. Do whatever God enables you to do." His general pessimism, however, suggests the Teacher was unable to follow his own advice. Deep-thinking people often find that simple pleasures fail to satisfy. A better answer comes in the conclusion of the book: Contentment comes through a life of faith and obedience.