Life is like a box of chocolates.
Most in my generation will recognize that famous line from the movie “Forrest Gump”. It was his mother’s way of reminding him “you never know what you’re going to get.” It could be something great or it could be calamity. According to the movie, the idea was to keep taking bites—keep living no matter what.
Perhaps the wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon of Israel, contemplated how life has a way of turning out very differently from what you anticipate. Maybe he would have agreed with Forest’s mom. The teacher of Israel pens in Ecclesiastes 6:10-12 (NIV)
10 Whatever exists has already been named, and what humanity is has been known; no one can contend with someone who is stronger. 11 The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone? 12 For who knows what is good for a person in life, during the few and meaningless days they pass through like a shadow? Who can tell them what will happen under the sun after they are gone?
The teacher, King Solomon, was prepared to listen to objections to his conclusions. He asks questions creating space for answers. Yet in his wisdom, he knows there’s nothing any human is capable of adding to the existential reality of what it is to be human.
In the Jewish philosophy, to name something was to not only identify it but was also a way to establish its character and nature. Humans were formed from dust (cf. Genesis 1 and 2) and to dust we will return. Solomon noticed we were basically named “from the earth” or…dirt.
The core questions of who we are and why we are here remains unanswered in human wisdom. There is no sage—no matter how brilliant—who can add to what Adam was called, knew, or did (cf. Genesis 1-3).
At the end of the day as we put our heads on the pillow, the question demands an answer: what are we pursuing?
We are free to make choices but we are not free to choose the consequences of those choices. Sometimes we forget this. We want to choose an option AND a profitable outcome. Solomon reminds us: this isn’t reality. Consequences are based on events often beyond us.
Should we choose to pursue happiness as our primary driving force, misery will be our companion. There will never be “enough” to sustain our happiness in this life. If nothing else, there will be too many events out of our control stepping in to rob us of happiness. Happiness, after all, is an emotion. Emotions are like gas: always changing positions.
Instead, we can choose to devote ourselves to something bigger than ourselves. We can pursue the Lord’s will and pleasure. This results in gaining something far more important than the emotion of happiness: joy, peace, and rest.
The answers to the questions of existence aren’t found in human wisdom. They are only answered by the Lord Jesus Himself. Only in Him can we find meaning to our existence. Only in Him can we find meaning in the few days we walk on this earth.
What’s your choice? Which way are you going?