with God, you find happiness

Once there was a man who wanted to be happy in life. “Is that so wrong? I just want to be happy.” Don’t you want to be happy? What makes you happy in life? You have some options: pleasure, wisdom, or work could make you happy. But do they really make you happy? So the man sought out anything and everything he could to bring him happiness.

You could chase after all things pleasurable. Maybe the latest TV show or movie, or something to eat or drink. You could take up a hobby, like building or gardening or arts and crafts. Maybe friendships or collecting possessions, like teddy bears, comic books, or stamps. You could get rich, or try sports and music. Sex could work. That’s everything the man tried. The opportunities for pleasure and happiness are endless, but do they satisfy? When it’s all over, it’s only “vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” This is what the Preacher learned in Ecclesiastes 2:1-11.

So he turned his attention to wisdom, 2:12-17. He was going to be the smartest guy in the room, with “half his brain tied behind his back just to make it fair,” as Rush Limbaugh used to say. And he became the smartest guy in the room, but there was a problem: the same thing happens to both the wise and the foolish. He said in his heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And that’s true, isn’t it? The wise man dies just like the fool. What’s the point of being that wise? You’re going to die anyway. No, seeking wisdom is only vanity and a striving after the wind. He had to try something else.

He turned to work. Burning the midnight oil, burning the candle at both ends, 24/7 and eight days a week he worked and toiled and labored. But what did all that work get him? What does all that work get you? In the end, you leave it all to the man who comes after you, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? He will be the master and you won’t. Is this true? You work all your life as hard as you can to build an empire or nest egg, but you leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not work for it. What does a man gain from all his hard work under the sun? What will you gain from all your work after you’re gone? That’s what he learned in 2:18-23.

So the pleasures didn’t work. Wisdom didn’t work. Work didn’t work. Nothing provided happiness or joy. Then the Preacher came to his senses. The lightbulb went off! In 2:24-26 he concluded, “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 apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.” Only a focus on the hand of God can provide purpose and happiness. There’s nothing wrong with pleasure, wisdom, or work; these things are actually gifts from God. It’s OK to seek these things out, praise God for these things. And that’s the point: praise God. He gives these things to us for our happiness. Pleasure, wisdom, and work apart from God are vanity, pointless, and empty. They won’t give you satisfaction. But whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17). And in that, with God, you find happiness.