Did you notice summer? It’s gone. Vacation travel dropped, school is starting, and church programs are headed into high gear. Depending on where you live, the weather cooled. Fall has arrived.
Some people use fall as a transition season to try to get organized “before the holidays,” which are the next hallmark of another year going full circle at breakneck speed. For some, fall may be a time of discouragement because of all the stuff they didn’t accomplish in the summer or the dread of the impending holiday deluge of relatives and expenses.
An important truth to remember is that we do not have to sit by helplessly and let stuff happen to us. While we cannot always prevent things from going wrong, we can choose how we will respond to life’s circumstances. We can decide where the meaning will come from in our lives and take action to seek it.
The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes reminds of this. “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” may be the most famous words from this Old Testament book. It’s all meaningless! But that’s only the opening line. If we stop there we miss the wisdom that comes from looking at the book as whole. The writer takes a close look at the human condition, commenting on practically everything between birth and death. The upshot is that we have limits. We work hard, and then we work harder. We toil after riches. We indulge ourselves with possessions exceeding our need. We chase after human understanding. We miss out on the wonder of our younger years because we’re so caught up in planning our futures.
But for all this effort, we still face the reality that we cannot do it all—and that trying to is not the point of life.
Trying harder simply does not make us happier.
In fact, our limitations are part of the way God created us. We are not God, and we need to get over thinking we can be. We were not created to be God, but to be with God, to be connected to God. That’s what the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us with his litany of our pointless strivings. A book that opens with “It’s all meaningless” (1:2) ends with “Remember your creator” (12:1) That is where we will find meaning and joy.
Life is sometimes one giant puzzle, but even with its unanswered questions, it is a gift God wants us to enjoy because we are in relationship with God. And God brings order out of chaos in ways we can never aspire to.
As you mull over what this fall season brings you, consider the forecast for your future, whether next month or next year. Don’t base your forecast on what you can accomplish, even though we all have lists of responsibilities. Instead, base it on what you can remember.
How many ways can you remember your creator? Remember God in the pursuit of balance in your life. Remember God in the way you respond to the worries that keep you awake at night. Remember God in decisions that could change your life. Remember God when you suffer and when you rejoice, when you work and when you play, when you speak and when you hold your tongue. Remember God when you encounter your own lack of wisdom.
“Fear God and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone,” the writer of Ecclesiastes says in closing (12:13). In relation to God we find the meaning our hearts crave.