Life is Difficult and then You Die

At some point in our lives, we probably have all asked the question, “What is the Point?”

After spending countless hours, exhausting our resources, and putting all our efforts into climbing to the top of the mountain – whether that be building our career, becoming wealthy, enjoying the pleasure that the world has to offer, or focusing on our own sense of worth. And once we reach the top, it is easy to look around and wonder, “Is it worth it?”

Questions about the meaning of our life, about the purpose of our existence, the reason we consume ourselves in our pursuits, are not new questions. These are the sorts of questions that the Teacher in the book of Ecclesiastes asked nearly three thousand years ago. He summarises his pursuit of finding meaning in life by saying

"It is useless, useless, said the Philosopher.

Life is useless, all useless." (Ecc 1:2 GNB)

But why would the Teacher, who I understand to be King Solomon, who was regarded as successful by human standards, write something so full of despair? King Solomon began his career as the wisest man in existence. His kingdom grew and flourished. However, Solomon had his weaknesses as well. At times he turned to foreign nations and fell into idolatry, turning his back on God. This had a devastating effect on his own life and on the kingdom of Israel. In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon provides a discourse on the futility of earthly pursuits, and the inevitable end all creatures will face: death and judgment before God. He exhorts younger generations to take joy in honest work and simple pleasures, and to enjoy their youth. Basically, the preacher’s message is, "Life is difficult and then you die."

Many say that the Teacher is just a pessimist, personally I think he was a realist. A realist about the questions about life that he is asking. A realist about the fact that at times life can look a little meaningless. And most importantly, a realist in his acknowledgement that God gives ultimate meaning to life.

In Ecclesiastics we learn about the pursuit of the Teacher to find meaning and purpose in life. The Teacher asks whether looking to wealth and career and pleasure and status will provide the purpose and meaning in life that he desires. He concludes that striving after these things does not bring ultimate meaning, in fact the Teacher concludes that this is “striving after the wind” (Ecc 1:14, 1:17, 2:11, 2:17,2:26; 4:4,4:6,4:16, 6:9). However, after all of his pursuits, the Teacher concludes by focusing our thinking on God. God is the one that gives meaning and direction to our lives.

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecc 12:13–14).

Ultimately God give meaning to life. We can’t find meaning in life without God being in the picture. Everyone searches for meaning in life. Everyone looks for truth. Everyone wants meaning and fulfilment in life. The Teacher concludes that everything in this world will fail you with the exception of God. Ultimately, meaning is only found in God.

According to the New Testament, life means Christ

  • A life fully committed by faith in Jesus (Galatians 2:20, Philippians 1:21). A life of faith that is lived in light of what Jesus has accomplished for us will have purpose and direction and it will have eternal value. The apostle Paul said that the life that he lived, was lived in light of the Christ and that our old way of living, that focused on himself had been crucified. Everything Paul said and did was focused on Christ
  • A life with the ultimate goal of knowing Jesus and experiencing the power of his resurrection. (Philippians 3:10-11). The ability to live a life that has meaning and purpose comes through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead, is available to each one of us today.
  • A life running the race focused on the prize (Hebrews 12:1-2). We need to focus on Jesus. We need to set our life on Christ. Just like those running a race, we need to see that God is in the one that we focus on and we run the race of life with our eyes looking to Him.

So at times life is tough, it can have a sense of futility, but can I encourage you to refocus all that you are doing on Christ. Our entire lives should be striving after God. In the words of preacher, John Piper:

“The meaning of life is to know God, and to enjoy God, and to reflect some of the beauty of God as we know him in Christ.”

Only God provides meaning and purpose to live.

Michael Hanson