Christian Living, Church, Culture & Society, Faith

A Frantic Search for Happiness

According to tradition, Solomon is the author of the book of Ecclesiastes. This small but important book expresses the wisdom of God in contrast to the prevailing cultural corruption of skepticism.

The book of Ecclesiastes is confusing to many Christians because it is so negative, and is full of skepticism. For this reason, it is sometimes difficult to interpret.

One possible solution is to structurally read the book from the viewpoint of the skeptic, with the response of God being given.

The skeptic in Ecclesiastes finds modern day counter parts in the writings of existentialist French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980), Albert Camus (1913-1960), Danish theologian Soren Kierkegaard (1813 -1855), and American novelist Ernest Hemmingway (1899 – 1961). Each man embraced pessimistic naturalism to emphasize the frailty of human existence. Camus wrote about the absurdity of life.

Hemmingway also wrote about life, but with little joy. His 1926 book, The Sun Also Rises, is taken from Ecclesiastes 1:5. “The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.” In his work, Hemmingway sets forth the idea that the “Lost Generation” is decadent, dissolute, and irretrievably damaged by World War I. Nevertheless, for some, there might be a little hope because there is a cyclical view of life. For Hemmingway there was only despair. He ended his life in a violent suicide at the age of 61.

The view of life being cyclical, instead of linear and moving towards a glorious destiny, was embraced by the Greeks, who believed that life was a never ending circle. There is no ultimate beginning of human experience, and no terminal point. “What goes around, comes around.”

Christian theology offers a linear view of life. Life had a beginning in the Garden of Eden, and will have a terminal point with a new heaven and new earth wherein righteousness dwelleth.

The book of Ecclesiastes seems to indicate that the rat race of life is meaningless. “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Eccl. 1:2).

The phrase “vanity of vanities” is a common literary form in order to express the superlative degree. A positive counterpart is found in the New Testament, when Jesus is called King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16).

The author of Ecclesiastes stresses, in the superlative degree, the vanity of life, because all that life has to offer has been sought in a frantic pursuit for happiness, but to no avail.

Solomon sought happiness in wisdom. “And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith” (Eccl. 1:13). Solomon studied many facets of nature: animals, birds, reptiles, fish and plant life. So great was his wisdom that people from all nations came to listen to him speak (1 Kings 4:32-34). But it was to no avail. “I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. 18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow” (Eccl. 1:17-18).

Solomon sought happiness in pleasure. “I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity” (Eccl. 1:16). But pleasure brought Solomon no lasting happiness. “I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it?” (Eccl. 2:2).

Solomon sought happiness in wine. “I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine” (Eccl. 2:3).

Solomon sought happiness in building, and agriculture projects. “I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: 5 I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits: 6 I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees” (Eccl. 2:4-6)

Solomon sought happiness in power over people, and personal possessions. “I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me: 8 I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces:” (Eccl. 2:7-8).

Solomon sought happiness in music. “I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts” (Eccl. 2:8).

Solomon sought happiness in marriage. Despite the Divine prohibition against multiplying wives in Deuteronomy 17:17, Solomon had 700 wives of royal birth, and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3). But marriage did not bring him happiness. In fact, in his old age, his wives “turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God” (1 Kings 11:4).

When Solomon looked back over the totality of his life he had tremendous regret. His heart was filled with bitterness because he could not hold on to it. “Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit. 18 Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me” (Eccl. 2:17-18).

Solomon came to understand that so much of the life he lived was done in vain. It was all futile. Said Solomon, “Futility of futility, all is futile.”

If you, like Solomon, are on a frantic search for happiness, then hear this.

“Happiness is to know the Saviour,
Living a life within His favour,
Having a change in my behavior,
Happiness is the Lord.

Happiness is a new creation,
Jesus and me in close relation,
Having a part in His salvation,
Happiness is the Lord.

Real joy is mine,
No matter if the teardrops start,
I’ve found a secret,
It’s Jesus in my heart.

Happiness is to be forgiven,
Living a life that’s worth the livin’,
Taking a try that leads to Heaven,
Happiness is the Lord.

Real joy is mine,
No matter if the teardrops start,
I’ve found a secret,
It’s Jesus in my heart,
Jesus in my heart.

Happiness is to be forgiven,
Living a life that’s worth the livin’,
Taking a trip that leads to Heaven,
Happiness is the Lord,
Happiness is the Lord,
Happiness is the Lord.”

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