Category Archives: Ecclesiastes

I’d like one handful, with a side of tranquility

Ecclesiastes 4:6

Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind. NIV

I found this verse this morning when searching “The Message” for the word, “fun.”

When you’re worried, you’re not having any … so, I thought there might be some verses that spoke to that.  The fun verse is a little further down, but, while I was reading in The Message, I found this verse, “One handful of peaceful repose is better than two fistfuls of worried work — More spitting into the wind.” MSG

Worried work — I love that.

We work and work and work so that we can climb the corporate ladder, and then what?  If all we’ve accomplished is to get to the top, once we’re there, we’re faced with the question, “what’s next?”

But, if instead, we are approaching life with a larger sense of purpose … if we’re focused on giving of ourselves instead of getting for ourselves, we will be positioned to fulfill God’s will for our lives and we ourselves will be fulfilled.  We’ll have the tranquility that this verse mentions.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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Who knows what’s coming?

Ecclesiastes 8: 5b-7

And the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure.  For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a man’s misery weighs heavily upon him.   Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come? NIV

I think these verses are interesting.

There is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a man’s heart weighs heavily upon him …

The Message translates that, “the wise person obeys promptly and accurately.  Yes, there’s a right time and and way for everything, even though,  unfortunately, we miss it for the most part.” MSG

I remember the first wedding I went to.  I was nine, my cousin was getting married (my FAVORITE cousin) and she asked me to be a junior bridesmaid.  Everything about it was magical to me.  I loved having my dress made, and preparing for the trip to her town.  When we arrived, she gave me a little charm bracelet with one charm that had a little picture of a junior bridesmaid on the front.  It  was engraved.  Below the picture it said, “Junior Bridesmaid,” and on the back, it had the date of her wedding.

I wore that bracelet for months … it was like a little medal.

I remember the rehearsal, and how much fun everyone seemed to be having.  And, there was a junior groomsman.  They showed us how to link arms as he walked me down the aisle after the practice wedding.

On the big day, everything seemed like a dream come true.  My mother did my hair, and I got to hang out with the “senior bridesmaids” before the service.  My cousin had never looked prettier.

I loved the reception … I loved how she and her new husband cut their cake, and that she threw her bouquet and someone got to catch it and take it home!

It was years before I attended another wedding.  When I did, I was surprised at the similarities between it and the very, very special wedding that my cousin had.  As time went on, and I went to more and more of them, I realized that all weddings were pretty much the same.

There’s a right time and way for everything …

Most of life isn’t like a wedding … but, perhaps it should be.  There are certain steps that we all must take, and, for the big transitions, we’ve developed a “right way” of doing them.  We have ceremonies and rights of passage … christenings, baptisms, graduations, funerals … but, there are many things in life where there are no ceremonies.  We’re left to figure them out on our own.

It is at those times, when, perhaps, we are most vulnerable to making a mis-step.  It is at those times that our misery weighs heavy upon us.  We hurt someone’s feelings, we behave selfishly, we make a poor decision.

As I look back at my life, my worries seldom stem from the ceremonial moments.

The last sentence in these verses seems to address that … no man knows the future.

It’s good that we don’t have a playbook for life.  It’s good that we don’t know everything that will happen before we get there.  Not knowing allows us to live in the moment, and to truly trust God.

It’s true that as we look back at our lives they will all have been pretty similar, but, the unique moments that each day holds are what makes every day an adventure to be lived, and, they are what makes each of us who we are.

I’ll have to think about that today.



Filed under Ecclesiastes, Old Testament, Worry

Trust … and obey

Ecclesiastes 8:5a

Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm NIV

Trust and obey …

Two sure remedies for worry.

There’s an old hymn that I have sung and heard sung all my life, “Trust and obey, for there’s no better way, to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey.”

This is a song that is on of a variety of hymns that are usually sung at the point in the service that in my religion is called, “the invitation.”

At this point in the service, I am sometimes moved to pray for others who have not yet made the decision to follow Christ, or, I may be contemplating things that God has put on my heart as a result of the sermon, or, I might be thinking about all the things I have to do to get ready to teach Bible Study, or worse, just wondering what I’ll have for lunch.

Regardless, even though I’ve sung this song, maybe 50 times in my life (and that’s a pretty conservative estimate), I don’t think I’ve ever seen those words as clearly as I do this morning.

I find that I have a lot in common with the originator of this sentiment at this point in my life.  I did some quick research on the Internet.  Turns out, John Sammis, who wrote the song, was inspired by the testimony of a young man who ended his story with the words, “I’m not quite sure, but I’m going to trust and obey.”

Powerful words.

I looked up the rest of the hymn:

When we walk with the Lord, In the light of His word, What a glory He sheds on our way!

While we do His good will, He abides with us still, And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear, Not a sorrow we share, But our toil He doth richly repay;

Not a grief or a loss, Not a frown or a cross, But is blest if we trust and obey.

But we never can prove, The delights of His love, Until all on the altar we lay;

For the favor He shows, For the joy He bestows, Are for them who will trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet, We will sit at His feet, Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;

What He says we will do, Where He sends we will go; Never fear, only trust and obey.

I’m not the first person to have faced uncertainty.  I am not the only one of God’s children who worries.

A dear friend said to me this morning that God is really teaching her to live in the moment.  She said that if she thinks only about her present, she is supremely happy with her circumstances.  The worries come only when she begins to look down the road ahead of her, where the future is all but clear.

We agreed that living in the moment was God’s intent for us.

So, on this gorgeous fall morning, I will enjoy the crisp air, and delight in the magnificent display of color that God has put all around me.  I will obey His commands, and I will trust that He has the future under control.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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Don’t back out

Ecclesiastes 8:2-4

Obey the king’s command, I say, because you took an oath before God.  Do not be in a hurry to leave the king’s presence.  Do not stand up for a bad cause, for he will do whatever he pleases.  Since a king’s word is supreme, who can say to him, “What are you doing?” NIV

Hmmm …

In The Message, these verses are translated, “Do what your king commands; you gave a sacred oath of obedience. Don’t worryingly second-guess your orders or try to back out when the task is unpleasant. You’re serving his pleasure, not yours. The king has the last word. Who dares say to him, ‘What are you doing?'” MSG

Don’t worryingly second guess your orders or try to back out when the task is unpleasant …

I’ve spent a lot of time asking God what he wants me to do with my life.  Likely, more time asking than truly listening for an answer.

When answers do come, I can’t second-guess them.

Some of what I must do here is unpleasant … trials I must endure … things that will surely teach me and prepare me for what my future holds, or that will benefit others in ways that I may never see or understand.

I can’t back out just because I’m tired, or bored, or worried … life is not a game of monopoly … you can’t just push back from the table and ask, “Who wants pie?”

Each day must be lived to its fullest potential.  We are here to serve God, to please God … not the other way around.

God, the ultimate King, has the last word … who am I to say, “What are you doing?”

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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Don’t be foolish

Ecclesiastes 5:3

As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words. NIV

This morning, I went back to the New International Reader’s Version on Bible  There, this verse reads, “Dreams come to people when they worry a lot. When foolish people talk, they use too many words.” NIRV

I like the symmetry of the NIV translation much better, but, the NIRV just lays the issue on the table.  When you’re worried, it seems you dream more.

I saw part of a story about dreaming the other day on one of the morning news shows.  A dream expert was being interviewed and the moderator asked her if we dream every night, because, she said, she sometimes feels like she’s had dreams in the night, and other times not.  The expert said that humans dream an average of about five to seven times a night, but that we tend only to remember dreams when we wake up immediately following them.

When I fail to exercise self control — one of the fruits of the spirit — and  I choose to worry over an issue, I don’t sleep well. defines “fool” as, “a silly or stupid person; a person who lacks judgment or sense.”

If I lack judgment, if I fail to exercise self control over my speech, I’ll say things that I regret.

It is interesting to me that one of the things that people seem to worry about most is stupid, thoughtless things they’ve said to others.

So, there are choices to be made … if I will choose wisely, I will have less cause to worry … and if I will choose not to worry, I’ll sleep better.

That’s a lot to think about today!

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Banish it

Ecclesiastes 11:10

So then, banish anxiety from your heart, and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless. NIV

This verse comes at the end of a beautiful passage in Ecclesiastes.  As I began to think about this verse, I began wondering about the writer.  I thought that I remembered that Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes.

My NIV bible confirms that this is a possibility, although, apparently, there is some disagreement about who the author actually is.  If Solomon wrote it, the book is older than some people think it is.

Either way, I found the introductory passage  in my NIV Bible so interesting.  It says, “Theme and Message:  Life not centered on God is purposeless and meaningless.  Without him, nothing else can satisfy (2:25).  With him, all of life and his other good gifts are to be gratefully received and used and enjoyed to the full (2:26; 11:8)  The book contains the philosophical and theological reflections of an old man, most of whose life was meaningless because he had not himself relied on God.”

He had not relied on God.  So sad.

As I put this verse in that context, I wonder, what is the writer suggesting we do to banish that anxiety from our heart?  To stop worrying?

I’ve learned through this project that the only true antidote to worry is to fully trust in God. To rely on Him him wholly.  To know beyond knowing that He has a plan for my life, and while I cannot see it, I must continue walking through it with faith and hope moment by moment.

The Message translates this verse, “Live footloose and fancy free — you won’t be young forever.  Youth lasts about as long as smoke.” MSG

So interesting.  The implication here is that we really have no worries as long as we are young … the real worries, he seems to be saying, come when your body begins to fail you.

How much, I wonder, is his perspective colored by a lack of reliance on God?  To me, it would seem just the opposite … as you enter old age, with the pleasant memories of a life well lived behind you, with a history of serving others as Jesus’s hands and feet here on earth, you draw closer to the ultimate reward — eternity with God.

I’ll have to think more about that today.


Filed under Anxious, Ecclesiastes, Old Testament, Worry