9What gain has the worker from his toil? 10I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11He 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. 12I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.
(Ecclesiastes 3:9-13 ESV)
Yesterday we read that there is an appropriate time in our lives for everything, including painful experiences. In today’s passage we learn that there is something to be gained from our toil. The business God has given us to be busy with has a purpose.
God has made everything beautiful in its time. Everything that we experience is a blessing to us. Even the things we would consider to be negative experiences are deliberately provided by God to teach and mature us. Our problem is that we want life to be simple and easy. We don’t want to go through pain.
God has also has put eternity into man’s heart. Man knows that he is an eternal creature. So he searches for answers beyond himself. We have the ability to reflect on past experiences and use that information to choose how we will behave in the present in order to control the future. We are the only beings on earth who do so because we are made in God’s image [Genesis 1:27].
Other animals are satisfied when they’re physical needs are met. But not man. We search for meaning. We know we are more than just a collection of randomly coagulated molecules. God has wired us to look beyond ourselves for purpose.
But notice that even so we cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. We can learn some things, but we cannot learn everything. In fact, the more we learn the more we realize that we have to learn. We see this all the time with scientific discoveries. Scientists discover some new fact about medicine or the universe. But that new fact only raises more questions. So we continue investigating and learning. Our search is never-ending.
But we should not be dissatisfied with this. Although we cannot understand all the mysteries of the universe or of God Himself we can still take pleasure in life. This is what God wants.
God’s plan for our life is for us to always be joyful [1 Thessalonians 5:16]. There is nothing better for us to do as long as we live. No matter what happens we should eat and drink and take pleasure in all we do for this is God’s gift to man.
Notice that pleasure must be taken – it is a gift from God. We cannot create our own happiness. There is no happiness apart from God. The world continually tries to improve life by removing God. But as we can easily see by looking at our recent track record, the world does not get better, nor do people get happier, without God.
As we can see in these first three chapters of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon really thought about life. He thought deep. And he found that nothing in our finite lives can satisfy our spirit or intellect. This is by God’s design.
As Augustine wrote: “You [God] have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they can find peace in you.” True contentment can only be found in God.
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