‘The words of the Teacher, son of David, king of Jerusalem: ‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’ What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and go, but the earth remains forever.” Ecclesiastes 1: 1-4a
In 1985, after winning the Master’s tournament, professional golfer Bernhard Langer felt empty. What was worse – he didn’t know why. He should have been celebrating reaching the pinnacle of success in the golfing world, but something was missing. Maybe you can relate? You’ve spent the early years of your career pursuing success, achievement and accomplishments, but instead of satisfaction you feel empty and disillusioned. What’s the point? Is this all there is?
King Solomon of ancient Israel had it all: extraordinary success, incredible achievement, unbelievable wealth, yet he, too, felt empty. Solomon discovered that a self-focused life is ultimately meaningless. It leads to nothing. In other words, you can work hard, you can strive to do your best, but in the end, it amounts to nothing of real value. Sound familiar? Is there really a solution to all of this? Absolutely!
Solomon says the key is to fear God. Understand what Solomon is talking about: a person who develops a healthy fear of God does so by finally seeing God’s holiness, purity and goodness. It’s about recognizing how far we are from God’s character. It’s finally seeing that we are sinners. Compared to God, we are weak. And it’s in this weakness that we can find true meaning and value. How? Because it’s not about OUR successes and achievements that bring meaning to life, but by looking to give glory to God for any good thing we do.
The best way we can do that is to understand that in spite of our shortcomings, God sent His Son, Jesus, to die for our sins and offer us forgiveness and grace. It’s Jesus who meets us in our sin and shame and forgives us. It’s through Jesus that we are made right with God. And it’s that realization that leads to a life full of gratitude, purpose and meaning- no matter how great our successes or how devastating our failures. Jesus brings meaning to life when life feels meaningless.