But I think that's the point.
We want scriptures to be uplifting and happy. We want them in a nice, neat package of grace, forgiveness, and isn't God good. We want the Psalms of David that talk about refuge, strength, and rest (not the ones that whine about his life circumstances, of which there are plenty). But Ecclesiastes is all about the ugly and messy, and the church in the West has all but lost it's appreciation for this.
We don't like messy.
But I'm learning to love Ecclesiastes for all it's mess, grit, and real-ness. Below are five ways it's changing my lenses about self, boundaries, grief, and the benefit of being real.
- Grief is good. (Ecclesiastes 7:2) I know, I know. Pain...good? It sounds counter-intuitive, but let's face it. Life is hard, things don't go our way, and all of those messy feelings end up inside of us whether we want them to or not. We can either learn to express them, or we can bottle them up. They don't just disappear. They'll come out one way or another--either through healthy expressions of grief, or through sickness, illness, and dysfunction. The Western Church runs away from the painful and ugly because it's not pretty. But spirituality isn't all about hymns and stain glassed windows. It's about getting real with God and each other.
- It's okay to be me. (Ecclesiastes 10:4) This verse changed how I approached boundaries. My go to strategy used to be one of two things: stubbornly push my view onto others, or shrink back and let others push their views on me. But this verse helped me to see that simply standing by who I am, even amidst push back from others, was not only the best way to handle conflict, but God was okay with it! God was okay with me...standing up for me! I could choose to stand my ground in love and honor, no matter what was in front of me (even a King).
- Balance in everything. (Ecclesiastes 7:15-18) Living a life on extremes doesn't work, and it's not healthy.
- Enjoy life. (Ecclesiastes 8:15 and 9:7) We live in a world that is both physical and spiritual. It's okay to enjoy and live amidst both. What I'm not saying is we should get drunk and go "super-carnal". But it's easy to forget, God made both the physical and spiritual. We can enjoy the things God has given us, especially if all are enjoyed in moderation. (see point 3) Like any Dad, He loves seeing His kids enjoy the gifts He's given.
- Know God. (Ecclesiastes 1) You can have all the wisdom and wealth in the world, like Solomon, and it's still all futility and dust. Happiness and identity aren't found in those things, they're found in God. That's really what the entirety of Ecclesiastes is about. Solomon had all the wealth and wisdom of the world, and even that couldn't satiate him. It's not about what you have, it's about who you know. To know God, to delve into becoming who He created you to be...that is happiness. That is purpose.
What about you? Do you like Ecclesiastes?