If we aren’t supposed to succumb to worry about the future, is there an antidote to despair? Again, the Teacher, the writer of Ecclesiastes, is ready with more wisdom for us. Look at chapter 9, verses 7-9a.
Dorsey’s Translation: “7 Therefore go, eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for this is what God wants you to do now. 8 Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with fragrant oil. 9 Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this fleeting life that God has given you in this world—all your fleeting days.”
Live life to the fullest!
Every meal, take it with joy.
The clothes you wear and how you get ready, do so with joy.
Your spouse, your family, your friendships; enjoy them.
Living with joy can be easier said than done, if we’re honest, right? When the stuff of life wears us down, we can get caught in a negative feedback loop. Over and over we replay the negative in our minds. We can actually get stuck in a habit of negativity, of complaining, of looking for and waiting for the next problem to come at us. I hear people use the phrase, “I’m just waiting for the next shoe to drop.” Yes, we live in a world where it is inevitable that bad things will happen, but is there a way to live with hope? What the Teacher wisely advises is an antidote to despair.
Even the little things in life, accomplish them with joy. One of the last things I do before heading to bed each evening is grind coffee beans in preparation for the next morning. I tend to be the first one up in our house, so I don’t want to wake up the rest of the house in the morning with that loud coffee grinder. I’ve tried taking the grinder into the laundry room, putting a pillow around the grinder, and that does muffle the sound. But it is just as easy to grind the beans the night before. (Coffee purists, are you thinking right now, “Yeah, but think about all the oxygen that will affect the grind through the night…the coffee will taste best if you wait till morning!”??? I feel you. But I don’t pour the grinds in the filter at night where they would have more exposure to air…I leave the in the grind, while not air-tight, is better. So please forgive me…) As I grind the coffee at night, you know what I think? “That ground coffee smells so good!!! I can’t wait to wake up in the morning, because I’m going to get to enjoy it.”
Each night I have a joyous expectancy about the coffee! Maybe you’ve experienced that too. You’re joyously expectant about a big day like a wedding, a birth, a promotion, a vacation, a sports season. That joy is wonderful! Dwell on that joy, thanking God for the gift of the joy we can have, even in the mundane of drinking coffee. While we do not always get to choose what things in life will happen to us, we do get to choose what we allow our minds to settle on when life happens to us. Often we do get to choose at least some of how our life will work out, but sometimes the junk of life forces its way uninvited in our lives, and we have to deal with it. But even then, we still have a choice about how we will we think about and respond the hard times. We can choose what thoughts we allow to have time and influence in our hearts and minds. We always have the choice of how to think, yet this can be admittedly difficult, replacing unhealthy thoughts with healthy ones. We choose how we frame the stuff of life with our thoughts. But how do we change our thoughts? We’ll come back to that in tomorrow’s post.
For now, let’s dwell on the wisdom the Teacher gives us through illustrations of how to have a joyous attitude about life. Dress up or dress nicely. Wear perfume. Smell good. Express your joy! This reminds me of the people during quarantine who dressed up to take their garbage out to the road on trash pick-up day! We can have joy even in the mundane.
Likewise, enjoy your spouse. The Teacher encourages a joyful pursuit of healthy marriage. Let’s admit it, the fact that you love your spouse can get lost in the minutia of life, of work, of the house, of bills, of laundry, dishes, kids, and on and on it goes. But the Teacher jumps right into the middle of our family lives reminding us to love one another in our family, and to love in a way that it shows.