“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher;
“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
What profit has a man from all his labor
In which he toils under the sun?- Ecclesiastes 1:2-3
I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.– Ecclesiastes 1: 14
I can’t get no…satisfaction.– Mick Jagger/Keith Richards
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.– Romans 5:1-5
Recently, a celebrity chef/world traveler and a successful fashion designer made the national news by taking their own lives. These suicides have triggered a lot of broadcasted discussion about the rise of mental health issues in the United States. According to the CDC, almost 45,000 people committed suicide in 2016 and the suicide rate in America has increased by 24% since 1999. This is distressing.
I am no psychologist, but to me the problem is obvious – hopelessness. Is hopelessness a mental health issue? Is it the product of a chemical imbalance in our brains? Are some folks just born without hope? Perhaps, but that does not really make sense. What does make sense to me is that we have crisis of hopelessness in our country mostly because so many are hanging all their hopes on temporary and ever-changing things. A particular person or relationship, career, finances, fill in the blank. The hopelessness begins when that object of hope shows itself to be an illusion. Hope can be shattered both by obtaining that which we have craved and also by being denied the same.
King Solomon was the literal personification of that which our current culture aspires. Power – he was a king and had a vast kingdom and a feared army. Wealth – he was the richest man to ever live. Luxury – he had an immense and lavish home including servants attending to his every need and desire. Sex – he had several hundred wives and concubines. Prestige – anointed by God to be king and to oversee the building of His Temple. Wisdom – he was known and sought out by the rich and powerful for his counsel. He was as close to a rock star as his era ever produced.
Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes. He pursued these things (and others) to the hilt. He was successful in most of these endeavors. Still, he found nothing but short-term pleasure and long-term emptiness in all these temporal things. Ecclesiastes is the diary of that pursuit. If this Solomon, with his unlimited resources, could not find lasting joy and hope in these quests, how in the world can we expect to? We can’t. The average Jane or Joe can’t, but neither can the folks who seem to have “everything”.
Solomon even pursued religion and found it to be empty as well. We must be careful to note that he did not pursue God, but religion. There is a difference. In fact, he pursued many religions and seemed to consider them all to be equal. The Pharisees also pursued religion instead of God. Jesus was pretty clear about that difference.
Christians (by definition, our hope is in Christ) one would think, should be immune to this hopelessness. But this is not reality, is it? We can be just as susceptible to hopelessness if we allow our circumstances, etc. to take our focus off of Christ. We must remember that all our current circumstances are temporary. Whether we see them as good or bad; whether they be physical, psychological, financial or whatever, they are not permanent…even if they last the rest of our earthly lives. Christ has promised us eternity in His presence and we must be intentional in our pursuit of Him throughout our lives. The hope we have in Christ is the one true hope we have.