Ecclesiastes 1:2 “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher; “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” (NKJV)
Put in modern English, “Life is futile. Everything is a waste of time. What’s the use”. Truth be known, probably every person that has ever lived life for very long has struggled with that thought.
Let me begin with a caution. This lesson begins a series that takes a brutally real look at the futility of life. There is no sugar-coating. This will be raw reality devoid of today’s pop psychology. However, I will strive to leave you each day with hope and encouragement.
We live in a sin-corrupted world that is growing more evil by the moment. There is NOTHING in this physical life that can bring more than just a few moments of fleeting happiness. Nothing. Life on the horizontal plane of existence is doomed to disappointment.
Then why bother at all? Because there IS an answer… but it’s not the one most people want to hear.
Our world would rather pump up on rah-rah seminars about “living life your way”. or try out the latest multi-level-marketing, get-rich-quick, sure thing. For a “lucky” few who can afford it, the diversions that money can buy provide temporary escape.
In the end, it all leads to the same conclusion:
something is still missing.
What is the answer to the futility of life? Well the simple answer is: live life God’s way. Sorry about that. I know it would be more glamorous if I had the “10 secrets to success in life” or the “7 steps for power and prosperity”. Those would definitely interest more readers, but the world is full of that kind of material already.
Here is the raw truth:
Life stinks unless you turn to God.
That’s it, period. You can be rich, famous, or drop-dead beautiful…but life is still empty and useless without God. You can drop out, tune out or quit caring… and life will still torture you. You can be whatever… it makes no difference. Life is dreary and useless without God.
You can even be “good”. It still doesn’t matter. You may be the “good woman” who sacrifices her life for her kids and husband. Everyday you endure the secret torment of wondering if this is all there is to life. Will you ever get to be “happy”? Is this it? Is this all there is? You wish you would have known what you know now BEFORE you got married. So you trudge through the day resigning yourself to the fate of being a good, but unhappy woman. Noble, but whoopee… who wants to live like that?
The “good man” works his tail off to provide for his family, works hard for his boss and volunteers his time at church. Every day he feels the demands from everyone around him to be a good employee, a good husband, a good father, a good leader… followed by the frustration of no one ever being quite happy with his efforts. It’s never quite good enough. He typically falls short of perfection, so no one is ever fully content with his effort. Nothing he does is quite good enough. So for all the effort, no one around him is satisfied, only wanting more. But he grinds on day after day resigning himself to his fate: a good man, but a discouraged and unhappy man. Noble, but eventually it will kill his desire to try anymore.
That is the ugly truth that everyone knows deep down but doesn’t want to admit because it sounds SO depressing. Plus, it flies in the face of our entire “positive thinking” mentality.
Positive thinking is man’s attempt to deny reality
and change it with his own effort.
Note: this is not to say that we are to be sad, critical downcast people. We should be positive. We should be optimistic. We should live in victorious joy. We should have a general demeanor of contentment and happiness. But it has to be grounded in the Truth of God, not in our personal attempt to manipulate reality using the metaphysical technique of “positive thinking”. Our positive outlook on life and demeanor is derived from intimacy with God, the power of man’s mind.
Another reason the reality of life’s futility is ignored, is because we are left with only one alternative, an alternative that many don’t want to have to actively consider. It is more comfortable to passively ignore God and placate our conscience pursuing other solutions. The only alternative to life’s futility is turning to God. But turning to God means obeying Him, submitting to Him and admitting He is right. And that is the part we want to ignore.
Human pride keeps us in denial of life’s futility because the
only answer is to admit God is right and we are wrong.
Throughout history, man himself has proven by his own experience that life has no meaning or hope. We have found thousands of ways to gain a few moments of pleasure or escape. But nothing lasts.
Humans have tried EVERYTHING imaginable to achieve lasting hope and secure long term happiness to no avail. So here we are after thousands of years of searching and groping after some answer. We come full circle back to the ugly truth: “what’s the use? Life stinks”.
What is the purpose of bothering with such a painful look at life? A primary reason is that this gets down to where we live and breath on a daily basis. This is the real deal, what life is all about. It’s what we experience every single day we choose to get out of bed. It’s the down and dirty truth about life. It’s the kind of common sense look at the issues that is missing in our market-driven world.
It is my hope that through this study, there will be those who will not waste any more time chasing after the fleeting promises of this world. I hope there will be some who will choose to avoid ten, twenty or even fifty years of regret wasting their life in worthless and vain pursuits. I hope that those who may be on the verge of giving up, or leaving their spouse, or ruining their family because they aren’t “happy”, will put off that decision for now. I hope they can come to realize they will only end up back at the very same point of decision they face today. What decision is that? Will you pursue life on your terms, or God’s terms?
Understanding the futility of life apart from God gives us
the opportunity to avoid wasting time chasing the wrong answers.
If you are struggling with hopelessness, take heart, your interest in God is leading you towards the right answer. If you already know God, but still feel the futility of life, take heart, you have the Answer, you just haven’t fully applied it yet.
God is the answer… the ONLY answer
to the futility of life.
God is the source of happiness and purpose. The next lesson in this series will begin our journey towards the Answer.
God, You are the Answer to the dreary futility of this earthly existence. Help us understand that living can be joyful and fulfilling, but only in You. Give us the courage to admit, and the wisdom to know that life is truly futile and heartbreaking unless lived for You. That’s just reality. Help us to see it. In Hope’s Name, Amen.
Contemplation: Do you struggle with discouragement? Do you sometimes just wish God would give you a break and that life could be “fun” once in a while? How much of your happiness is dependent on your circumstances?
Application: Life without God is futile and dreary. Modern psychology and positive thinking doesn’t change that. The sooner we accept that this is the fact of our sin-filled world, the sooner we will turn whole-heartedly to the only Answer to this dilemma.