Lessons Learned from Ecclesiastes

This Sunday we come to the end of our study in the book of Ecclesiastes as we land our series, Chasing the Wind. And what a ride it’s been! I don’t know about you but I feel equal parts exhilarated and gloomy, excited and depressed. But I guess that’s exactly the way we should be feeling. After all, when we consider the totality of life in this world, as the Teacher has been doing throughout the book, it is equal parts exhilarating and depressing, exciting and sobering, joyous and painful, beautiful and tragic.

This is my biggest personal takeaway from the book of Ecclesiastes. The complex, multi-faceted, nuanced experience of life. To put it simply, life is not simple, nor is it neat. In fact, life in this world confounds our expectations, eludes our control, and, as the Teacher repeatedly reminds us, ends in the grave, whether we like it or not. This is perhaps the greatest benefit of studying Ecclesiastes: it looks life right in the eye, as it really is, and refuses to blink. It rejects clichés and spurns simple answers. It is brutally honest, which can make for an uncomfortable and confronting experience.

But, as I hope we also saw throughout the series, all is not lost, nor is everything meaningless. Because life under the sun is not all there is. There is also the glorious reality of the God beyond the sun. The God who has spoken to us in the words of the Bible and has come for us from beyond the sun in the person of Jesus. Whereas life without God, life “under the sun” as the Teacher calls it, really is futile and fleeting, with Jesus it is full and forever. Jesus himself declared while on earth: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

So, what is your ‘takeaway’ from Ecclesiastes? What truths will you hold in your mind and cherish in your heart as you continue your pilgrimage under the sun? Here are mine:

Ecclesiastes tells us that bad days are normal

“It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with” (1:13) and “What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labour under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest.” (2:22-23).

Ecclesiastes teaches us that good days are a gift

“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God. … For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy” (2:24, 26).

Ecclesiastes reminds us we are not in control of our days

“Since no one knows the future, who can tell someone else what is to come?” (8:7) and “This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead” (9:3).

Ecclesiastes teaches us that God holds all days in his hands

“So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no one knows whether love or hate awaits them” (9:1) and “For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (12:14).

With you on the journey,