“I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” ~ Ecclesiastes 1:12-14
We have all heard the exhortations to live your life to the fullest, to be all that you can be no matter what.
But I have to wonder if there are things in this life that are just too terrible, that no matter how hard you try, you simply can’t achieve this.
My wonderings started this morning as I read an article in the Sunday paper. It was a short one, on the opening page, about the pictures of children who survived the Holocaust. There are some 1,100 photos that are going in the museum of these children. One woman was surprised her picture was there – she never talks about her experiences; she didn’t tell her family. One man’s photo shows him as a preteen, staring stoically off into the distance, not looking at the camera at all. But it’s his comments that will stay with me, even if the image in the photo doesn’t.
This man was four years old when his father was taken away. His father went to Auschwitz and died there. He was moved about between friends and family, in hiding during the war. Afterwards, he grew up, got married, had children, owned a business. Yet the somber adult the newspaper showed doesn’t look much different than the somber child, and he sums up his life in a few words,
“I haven’t been happy for most of my life.”
And it made me wonder, can you really get over something like the knowledge your father died in such a gruesome way? To have memories of what war looks like, when it is ravaging your country?
I don’t know. Sometimes I think the sadness of the world weighs heavy on all of us. That because of sin and death, our opportunities for happiness on earth are much reduced from what we were created to enjoy. I think too often we try overcome this great sadness on our terms, trying desperately to recapture and reclaim another time, another place.
Even Solomon, with all of his wisdom and riches, reflects at the end of his life that pursuing the things of this world is meaningless – a chasing after the wind. I agree with his statement that there is a heavy burden on mankind. And I think that burden comes from trying to find happiness in the wrong places. Namely, in the trappings and trimmings of life on earth. I think as long as we are trying to make ourselves happy with the things we buy and the things we do, we never will be.
However, if we set out eyes on Jesus and store up our treasures in heaven, we will know something even greater than happiness: we will know the joy of the Lord.