All I wanted to do when I was a kid was grow up. I remember looking at the life that my parents had, and it seemed like it was the best possible experience anyone could ever want! Adult life seemed so much better than a kid’s life! You could have a job, you could have a house, you could have a family, and you could even stay up past 9 pm! To a kid, all of life would be so much better if only adulthood would come!
Obviously, looking back now at a 27-year-old I see how lopsided that perception of adulthood was. In a sense, I was right about all of those things that were listed above. I have a job, I have a house (well, a duplex that I rent, but a place of my own nonetheless), I am now married, and I am up past 9 pm every night! But there is a level of adulthood that I just could not see or perceive as a child. Paying taxes, needing various levels of insurance for the things that I own, making difficult choices between things that I really would instead not choose, and the list could go on. Being an adult is not precisely what I thought it would be.
One way we could say the way a child sees adulthood is shortsighted. Obviously growing up and becoming an adult is not a bad thing. It is a great thing! It is a natural part of life to become an adult, take on more responsibility, and adjust life accordingly. However, it is easy to see how easy it is as a child or teenager to have a shortsighted or an incomplete view of what being an adult is like.
I believe we face a similar danger when determining whether or not we want to line up our lives with God or try to live a life apart from Him. Just like the kid who sees his life full of restrictions, rules, and lack of freedom compared to adulthood, many people view God as a Cosmic Buzzkill or Somebody who wants to restrict and limit life.
Sometimes its way more comfortable to just live our way, and not worry about how God wants us to live our lives. How often do we blow off God because we want to do our own thing? Can’t we just live the way we want? Do we have to have God in the picture? Does God even really care how we live? Why should I follow what God says? These are questions we all face and are tempted with every day. The book of Ecclesiastes gives us a look into a life of someone who decided to call their shots instead of listening to God.
The beginning of Ecclesiastes may be one of the most striking introductions within the entire Bible! Check out how this book opens up in the first few lines:
“These are the words of the Teacher, King David’s son, who ruled in Jerusalem.
‘Everything is meaningless’, says the Teacher, ‘completely meaningless!'”
What a way to start off a book! According to tradition, “the Teacher” spoken of here is King Solomon the son of King David of Israel, and for the sake of argument/discussion, we will go with that assumption in this post. When I read these first few lines, I picture myself catching up with Solomon over lunch or coffee at a local diner. As I am waiting at the table that I had reserved for us, Solomon comes rushing in with an exasperated and irritated look saying “Life is meaningless! There is no point!”. Obviously, something has happened to bring Solomon to this point. What happened?
Like Chasing the Wind
As you read through the book of Ecclesiastes, you find a phrase that shows up repeatedly. The author says many times that “I found these things to futile, like chasing the wind.” To put Ecclesiastes in today’s terms, Solomon basically said, “I’m going to live it up.” You can read as Solomon talks about he applied himself to be as wise as he possibly could. He resisted nothing and pursued anything and everything that gave him pleasure. He amassed all the possessions and property that he could. He poured himself into his work to be the very best that he could be. He kept coming back to the same conclusion: “Meaningless…like chasing the wind!”
Solomon partied hard. He became filthy rich. He became incredibly wise and intelligent. He had everything that the world had to offer. So why was he so miserable? Because he forgot God. If you read the history of King Solomon, later in his life he turned to idols and disobedience to God’s commands. It is during this time of Solomon’s that many believe that Ecclesiastes takes place in.
He chose to live his way. He decided that he wanted to live life according to his standards rather than the way God prescribed. Do you know what the scariest thing about the whole story is? He got everything that he wanted. Everything he wanted to experience and gain, he did. The only thing that he lacked was the one thing that he truly desired; meaning. Just like the kid who couldn’t wait to grow up so he can experience being adult being awakened to the reality of what he wanted, Solomon experience this by walking apart from God. He thought that was what he wanted, but he found nothing there.
At the end of the book, Solomon offers a conclusion after experiencing the fallout of living how he wanted:
“So remember your Creator in the days of your youth: Before the days of adversity come, and the years approach when you will say, ‘I have no delight in Him’.”
The Illusion of Living without God
The idea of living life apart from God is a false reality, an illusion at best. God created mankind. He created humanity in His image. He is all powerful, all knowing, and ever present. King David picks up on this concept in Psalm 139:
“You have searched me,Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be darkto you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake,I am still with you.”
Psalm 139: 1-18
The idea that we can ever really escape God is silly. God is always present. However, God is so different than the other gods and deities portrayed by other ancient religions. God created humanity to be with Him. God didn’t create us because He needed us, or wanted to use us for His gain or agenda. God created us because He desired to be with His people. That is still God’s desire. He doesn’t want us to try and gain everything this world has to offer.
You may say, “I want to chase my dreams!” but what if those dreams are killing you? “I want to experience life!” but what if you can’t honestly experience life unless you live with God? You see, God isn’t trying to ruin anyone’s life. He isn’t trying to be a buzzkill. God isn’t trying to manipulate us to behave a certain way or keep us from experiencing fun, happiness, or fulfillment. God loves us all so much that He gives us commandments and a way to live a life that will lead to life rather than death.
“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them,I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess.I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”
– Deuteronomy 3:15-20
We see that Solomon chose to not love God and disobey the way of life that God had laid out. The result was tragic. The choice is still the same for us today. God is still the same God from creation. He made us with the purpose of being with Him and worshipping Him. God doesn’t want us to waste our lives or destroy our lives by constantly trying to achieve greatness on our own. He desires to give us a life that is full. A life that is complete in Him. Remember the words of Jesus in the Gospel on John:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
– John 10:10
Have you tried to live life without God? Have you experienced this “abundant life” that Jesus talks about? What keeps you from living with God rather than apart from Him? I’d love to hear your comments below and hear your thoughts!