Look at the joy on the girl’s face in the picture above. Isn’t it wonderful? We can only imagine how she got covered in paint, but there is no mistaking that she is feeling deeply joyful about it. Perhaps we adults should let our hair down and have a paint battle from time to time. I say that because so many of us are struggling to find true fulfillment in life. We can feel trapped in the doldrums and frustration of the real world. Is it even possible to find true fulfillment?
The Teacher in Ecclesiastes would answer that with a resounding, YES, it is possible to find true fulfillment in life! To learn how, read on.
After reviewing the misguided pursuit of meaning, the Teacher returns to the solution of how to find fulfillment in life in Ecclesiastes chapter 6, verses 8-12. We begin with Dorsey’s translation of verses 8-9: “This is why the wise person is far better off than the fool; for the wise person has learned to enjoy what he has. It is better for a person to enjoy what he has than to crave what he doesn’t have—which is elusive and ethereal, like a breeze that cannot be held.”
In verses 8-9, the Teacher returns to what truly brings meaning in life. A wise person is one who learns to enjoy what he has. Do not crave what you don’t have. Instead learn to have joy right where you are. This is another way to talk about satisfaction. We can learn to be satisfied no matter the circumstances of our lives, when we have joy in the Lord. There will always be more things we can wish for. There will always be different circumstances we are hoping for. But don’t wish away the difficult spots you are in, and don’t wish for other gifts and provisions than what you’ve been given. Be grateful. Have eyes to see God in all the facets of your life, and find joy in who God is. Find joy in the fact that he loves you. Then allow the joy of the Lord to be your strength. Find strength to be grateful, to be satisfied in the fact that you bring him joy and true joy can be found in him.
This doesn’t mean that we turn a blind eye to the reality of our lives. This doesn’t mean that we don’t seek to live wisely. This doesn’t mean that money and wealth are inherently evil. It means our deepest desire and passion should be to find joy in the Lord, to find our satisfaction and stability in the Lord.
Notice how the Teacher points us to seek our satisfaction in the Lord in verse 10. Again, hear Dorsey’s translation, “God has already determined what a person should have, and what a person should be. One cannot dispute with God over these things, for his authority is greater than that of human beings.”
Upon reading that, you might think, “Joel, I don’t see anything in that verse that sounds like the Teacher pointing us to seek our satisfaction in the Lord.” Instead, verse 10 could sound like fatalism, the idea of “what will be, will be,” as if the pathway of our life is already determined, and we have no choice, no hope. But the more I study the Bible and get to know God, the more I’m convinced that he has created us with genuine free will and thus he has given us choice and hope in life. So how does free will jive with the phrase, “God has already determined”?
It seems to me that the Teacher is saying that God has already decided what is best for us. Verse 10, in other words, is a commentary on verses 8 and 9. God has made it known what is the best way to live, the way that will bring the deep satisfaction we crave. We don’t need to go looking for that satisfaction anywhere else because God, who is all knowing, all powerful, has already made the truth known to us. The truth is that God has determined that humans can only find deep, sustained satisfaction in Him.
As he nears his conclusion, in verse 11, then, the Teacher summarizes the false road that people so often travel in their search for meaning. Here is verse 11 in Dorsey’s translation, “People desire many things that ultimately are of no value to them.”
As he already taught, the Teacher here reaffirms that we humans so often search for fulfillment in money and possessions, and it while those things provide pleasure for a moment, that pleasure always fades away, and we are faced with the harsh reality of emptiness again, and again, and again. So what do we do?
I think the answer to “What do we do?” is how the Teacher concludes. But remember that this is poetic wisdom literature, and it is not as straightforward as we might like. In fact, it doesn’t seem straightforward at all. Look at verse 12. It might seem like a strange way to end this section, as if the Teacher is asking penetrating questions with no answers. Here again is Dorsey’s translation: “How can a human being even know what would be best for him in this life, during the few fleeting days that he lives like a passing shadow? How could he know what would be best for him in his future?”
It seems to me that the Teacher intends us readers to look at those questions as having obvious answers. How can a human being know what is best for him in this short life? He can’t! How can he know what is best for his future? He can’t. The teacher finishes this way as if to put an exclamation point on verse 10. God is the source of wisdom. Though humans can’t know what is best, and though humans try like crazy to find fulfillment in life, on our own we fail to do so, but thankfully there is another source of wisdom and truth. It is found in God!
So let us rejoice in God. Let us follow the joyful way of life that he calls us to. Let’s not think that consuming goods and services and seeking to live lives that we see portrayed by others will fulfill our longings. Only God can fulfill. Therefore, we can stop striving to find meaning and fulfillment in any other things, and we can rest from our striving, and we can enjoy what God has given us.
This is a picture of deep satisfaction in God. While life in our culture is rarely one in which people feel satisfied, we can learn to find our satisfaction in God, living joyfully no matter the circumstances. Here’s what I recommend. Start your day by being thankful. Spend time dwelling on your memories of God’s faithfulness. He is our only hope. Not a celebrity, not money, not a government leader. Let’s us commit anew to say, “Christ is Lord, Christ is King,” and then make choices to live like we mean it. If you’re wondering how to go about that. I would be glad to talk further. Comment below and let’s talk.