The Ecclesiastes Revelation
While I was attending the Urbana 15 missions conference, I was talking on the phone with J when I asked him whether he believed that God has a plan for all of our lives. He responded by saying that he believes that God opens and closes doors in our lives, and that we are specifically called to praise Him from where we are.
This didn’t really feel like an answer to my question. It felt like he was basically saying that we can do whatever we want as long as we praise God while we’re doing it. And while I know that’s not what he meant, the whole concept thoroughly confused me. Until I asked him if he believed that God has complete authority over our lives, to which his answer was yes.
It was then that the whole opening and closing door thing clicked for me. God isn’t giving us opportunities or taking them away at random. He does it according to His plan. Whether or not we follow Him is up to us, but no matter what we do we can’t really run away from what God has planned for us. Whether I become a teacher or a book editor, I will still be using my God-given English and literature skills to honor Him and try in some small way to change the world.
J’s view didn’t truly become real for me, though, until my Sherlock Holmes devotional lead me to the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. Ecclesiastes 2:9–13 in the ESV translation reads, “What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to by busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they life; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil — this is God’s gift to man.”
The part of the verses that talks about how God put eternity into our hearts confused me until I read my study Bible’s footnote about it. It explained that the word “eternity” in Hebrew can also be translated to “forever,” and further explains that God gave us the ability to see that history is not meaningless, but did not give us the ability to see where the story is going. This means we have to trust God with our story and praise Him from where we are, as there is no real point in getting mad at God for changing our story in a way we don’t like, when if we truly trust in Him the story will have a better ending than we ever could have written.
Another aspect of my revelation comes from the first chapter of the book. Ecclesiastes 1:9 reads, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” This verse basically means that any problem you have has been had before. This isn’t meant to belittle your problem, but to encourage you in the ability to solve it. I believed my devotional paired it with a message about taking people’s advice. If not, it was close, and that’s what my brain paired it with. Anyway, if the problem has been had before, then that means that someone has gotten through it before. This should be really encouraging, as it assures you that whatever the problem is is not the end of the world no matter how much it seems to be. All one has to do is trust God to lead one to the right person, the person best suited to help one through the problem based at least partially on their own experience.
And lastly, my final Ecclesiastes revelation came with the fourth chapter, and has a bit to do with my other post, What is the point?. Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 might be familiar, as it is read at weddings sometimes. It reads, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him — a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” I decided that if I do end up getting married someday, then this is the reading I want at my wedding because this is what I want my marriage to be. Serving together, with God at the center of our lives and completing our threefold cord.