Summary: In Christ we find true meaning to this life and eternity
WHAT’S THE MEANING OF ALL THIS?
The meaning of life – What is it? Who understands it? Those are the questions people badly want answered, but nobody seems to know how to obtain them. Believe it or not, all of us are engaged in a search to find these answers. Take a look around. We live in a world that is desperately seeking to define human existence. We live in a culture that has serious questions about the value or worth of human life. We wonder what it all means.
The problem is that we cannot look beyond what we see. As human beings we are limited to what we experience or observe around us. And so, in a time of weakness, we might be led to ask: WHAT’S THE MEANING OF ALL THIS? God is patient, however, and leads us to understand that this is 1) A question asked in frustration. Yet, God does not leave us alone in our query. We quickly learn that there is 2) An answer given by grace.
1) A Question Asked in Frustration
Solomon was looking for answers to the same questions we have. He would look around the world ask, “What’s the meaning of all this?” The answer God led him to find was a bit unsettling, but true. As Solomon looked here and there over all the activities in this life, he learned this truth: It’s meaningless. “Meaningless, meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” This sounds rather discouraging. We might be tempted to think that Solomon was having “one of those days” when he penned these words. Yet, when we look closely at what he says, we see that Solomon was quite accurate and true.
Meaningless. The original idea behind that word is “breath.” The idea becomes very clear on a cold day, when we see our warm breath, only to watch it vanish. That is an accurate picture of life on earth. Behind all the hustle and bustle, the sparkle and shine, lies an existence that is empty and fleeting. This is hard to accept because we want a piece of the eternal right now. Deep down inside all of us there is the desire to obtain paradise. So we grasp at thin air in the hopes of catching something that will last.
And so off we run, searching for more. We shop, we purchase, we stockpile, and we hoard away all sorts of things. And why? Deep down we’re trying to convince ourselves that our lives are meaningful. Have you ever taken a look in your garage or your attic? I believe the average American’s garage is proof of Solomon’s observation: Everything is meaningless. Now, there might be a few items in there that mean something at the moment because they are important at that time. For example, the lawnmower, the bicycle, the car (if you can fit it in there), are generally meaningful things. Then there’s all that stuff, which when you look at it you might ask, what’s the meaning of all this? Then we get frustrated because we have all these things, but really don’t know what to make of it all. What once was so important often turns into a meaningless memento that is now stashed in some cobweb-ridden corner. It’s all an effort in futility. Solomon understood this frustration. If you read all of chapter two, you’d find that Solomon had a grand collection of things and people. All of it was meant to bring meaning to his life, but it only granted frustration in the end.
What’s even more frustrating is the other point Solomon makes. He says, “I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool?” What an injustice! We work so hard! We struggle, toil, and sweat for a lifetime, only to go to the grave without any guarantee that what we leave behind will be appreciated. When we look at life from this angle, much of it does seem meaningless and futile. In fact, it’s frustrating.
Solomon completes his point by describing the work-a-day life. “What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.” Solomon is not trying to rain on anybody’s parade. He’s not a pessimist. He’s being truthful. Pursuit for the meaning of life ends in stress. There’s physical stress. From all the overtime at the job to the chores around the home, people deny themselves the precious gift of rest. What’s the meaning of all this? Couple that with the mental stress and fatigue people experience --anxiety, worry, depression, feelings of worthlessness --and is it any wonder that millions spend sleepless nights in front of the TV? Perhaps you’ve been there. Again, what’s the meaning of all this? The real issue is that people are looking for spiritual rest and meaning. They are looking for spiritual answers in this physical world. Every evening people spend restless nights, on the sofa or in the armchair, watching the likes of Miss Cleo, dealing out her Tarot cards, and hoping to find meaning and answers.