A Cathartic Moment with Qoheleth on the Eve of Thanksgiving Week

A month ago I read From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life by Jacques Barzun. In the introduction he makes a fascinating comment about the modern era in which we live:

“It is a very active time, full of deep concerns, but peculiarly restless, for it sees no clear lines of advance. The loss it faces is that of Possibility. The forms of art as of life seem exhausted, the stages of development have been run through. Institutions function painfully. Repetition and frustration are the intolerable result. Boredom and fatigue are great historical forces” (Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence, xx).

Now, Barzun is writing a cultural history and I’m not interested in evaluating his argument here on the blog. And you’re thinking to yourself, “There is hope, after all!” What interests me is how similar Barzun’s critique sounds to Qoheleth (or Koheleth) in the biblical book of Ecclesiastes. Qoheleth is the English transliteration of the Hebrew noun (קֹהֶלֶת) that the author of Ecclesiastes uses to refer to himself. In fact, the English word “Ecclesiastes” is actually derived from the Greek translation (ἐκκλησιαστὴς) of the Hebrew noun (קֹהֶלֶת). The noun is most likely a title (not a proper name) and means something like assembler, teacher, or preacher.

Check out just one relevant section in Ecclesiastes (1:1-14 ESV):

1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
2 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
3 What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
4 A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
5 The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
7 All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.
8 All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
9 What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
11 There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to be
among those who come after.
12 I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem.
13 And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.
14 I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.

The gist of the paragraph is that in spite of relentless human activity, all things “under the sun” are full of weariness—they are both tiring and tired out. In the Hebrew text the biblical author’s point is strikingly clear. In verses 4-7 alone there are some fifteen active participles, suggesting that although there is a copious amount of human action, nothing fruitful really happens at all (C. Seow, Ecclesiastes, 112). While Barzun attributes this peculiar weariness primarily to the end of the modern era (and I’m not saying I agree with Barzun!), Qoheleth seems to suggest that this weariness is descriptive of human experience in general.

We often read Qoheleth and think, “What am I supposed to do with this text?” But the irony is that most of us have probably had the same thoughts as Qoheleth at one point or another. This is precisely what makes his message so powerful. Qoheleth speaks to the dark and sinister moments in our journey of faith, even if they are few and far between.

Have you ever felt like Qoheleth? Have you ever wondered after a long day of work, “Okay so what was the point of all that?” Do you ever ask yourself, “How is it that everyone is talking, nonstop talking, but no one is saying anything new or interesting?”

Sometimes we endure seasons where G.K. Chesterton is exactly right, we simply aren’t strong enough to exult in monotony (G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy). We don’t want to be told to find joy in the little things because we’re simply too jaded by the overall picture. The chirping of the birds is no longer beautiful, it’s just annoying. The bubbling casserole on the stove has lost its legendary power to relieve the fatigue of the daily grind. Cleaning toilets, is well, just that, it’s cleaning toilets and it’s pretty gross. There are seasons when we become so disenchanted with human experience that the little things are, frankly, just not enough. We simply can’t make sense of how all of this is working or where all of this is going. It can get hard to push through when most folks dismiss disillusionment as madness or depression. Have you ever encountered this kind of season? Maybe I’m the only one.

What is most fascinating is that Qoheleth doesn’t solve any of this for us. Qoheleth’s teaching ends right where it began with “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity” (12:8). But the book doesn’t end at 12:8. In 12:9-14 the voice of the narrator (a second and anonymous wise man) sounds and indeed has the final word with his famous lines in v. 13:

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

Now I used to think this ending was sort of anticlimactic, but now I like it. I love how the book lacks a shiny red bow but calls us to orthodox faithfulness nonetheless. Usually when I’m jaded or facing a full-on existential crisis, my tendency is to stop praying, worshipping, and meditating on Scripture. In short, I just stop doing whatever I was doing before to connect with God and His people. But when we’re questioning it all and angry with it all is precisely when we need to push back against the darkness and confusion by engaging anyway. Now, I know I’m posting these words on the eve of Thanksgiving week. I know this might strike some of you as kind of odd timing. But for those of us who are facing seasons of restlessness or dissatisfaction, Qoheleth is a powerful and cathartic read. Qoheleth gives us a canonical excuse to be a little bit cynical for just a moment without allowing us to be too self-indulgent.

I was reminded yesterday of some of my favorite words in Wendell Berry’s novel Hannah Coulter.

“We suffered the thoughts of the nights and at dawn woke up and went back to work. The world that so often had disappointed us and made us sorrowful sometimes made us happy by surprise” (Wendell Berry, Hannah Coulter, 147).

Sometimes we’re not strong enough to exult in monotony, but if we continue to be engaged with the world God loves and persistent in faithfulness despite our sorrow or dissatisfaction, who knows, we might just stumble on joy.

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Comments:

  1. 51
    Hilda says:

    Over my head.

  2. 52
    Dana says:

    As I enter into Thanksgiving with my extended family, the thoughts of dissatisfaction are very real. Thanks so much for this post-it is encouraging to me. I worked most of my feelings out on the eliptical this morning so I really appreciate the comments of Sister Lynn. So true that hard work and pushing through gets me to a place of true joy.
    Thanks so much!

  3. 53
    Rhonda says:

    Hello Melissa!

    I always look forward to reading your posts…….such great words! I’ve sent this to my daughter, who recently read “From Dawn to Decadence”. She thought it an interesting read and had many comments to share during her time of reading. And…. Ecclesiastes is one of her favorite books….so thanks for sharing….I see some discussion time coming in our home 🙂

    Oswald Chambers has much to say about keeping busy with the basics of life and finding joy in the mundane, as does the author of Streams in the Desert”. I’ve needed reminders from time to time about what is the work of God in my life and how much is accomplished as we just “stay at task”….joy surely finds it’s way into our hearts as we keep walking with Him.

    Bless you……you challenge and encourage me at the same time 🙂

    • 53.1
      Melissa says:

      Barzun’s book is fascinating! Would love to talk with her about it. He’s a master story-teller but at times he is a bit doom and gloom about modernity 🙂

  4. 54
    Michelle Wardlow says:

    Oh my word!!! OH HIS WORD!!! This was what I have been struggling with for so long…the boring! I feel so often that I’m spinning my wheels and not going anywhere, and God surprises me with Kingdom stuff! Isn’t God so good and faithful? I always encourage people that God can handle our screaming rage, but fail to realize He can ALSO handle our guilt-ridden apathy! I’m there sisters! I get apathetic, and then feel bad. I don’t feel like praying or feel like the book of prayers I use is all wrong, and feel guilty. I press thru, knowing that these pre-written prayers are doing me some good, but I still struggle with it. Melissa you are indeed a breath of fresh air. I LOVE the depth of what you posted. I so needed this spring of fresh water in this desert I have been in. I will press on! I will continue in the mundane, the seemingly empty words, or the times I feel like I don’t even have anything to say that He would be ok with. I will continue to try to seek His face!

  5. 55

    This is very interesting, Melissa. I personally have felt like what can we do? What do we actually get done? I am filled with the feelings of being too weak and my heart wrong, ears deaf, eyes blind and I feel stuck after reading the parables and all of Jesus words in Matthew this week. Ive never quite felt this way without feeling led to be able to change. This time I have felt so helpless, useless, heart-achy, weak, everything attainable is actually unattainable. It is a scary place to be when I have loved Jesus my whole life. I cant find the comfy spot to rest in His words this week. I really like Sister Lynn’s comment that “the cure the monks of old recommended was good old hard manual labor…really sweating,working hard so that you are really physically tired which loosens the knots in the heart and frees it to seek God more fully.” Thanks ya’ll for the discussion.

    • 55.1
      Susan says:

      When I feel this way,Joelle, I listen to the song You Raise Me Up and then I picture myself like Tiny Tim in the Christmas Carol sitting on God’s shoulders and I can’t think of a safer or more exciting place to be. I was feeling this way earlier this week; then I received a call from someone I’ve been walking along beside and praying for their eternity telling me she asked and accepted God into her heart today and BAM. I saw it was worth saying those prayers over and over again. The next day, I visited with another friend who told me she asked Christ into heart at a Believing God study I facilitated. BAM!! Once more I saw how God takes our actions and gives eternity to lost souls. I’m learning to look with my “eternity” eyes rather than my “worldly” eyes.

      I hope this helps you some. The only one who wants you to feel “helpless, useless, heart-achy, weak, everything attainable is actually unattainable” is Satan. You are a special person, you are God’s child!!! I’ll be praying for you.

  6. 56
    Sharon says:

    Woe! A timely post! I spent yesterday’s morning trying to revive my madness to merry…….. but before the day was done, I fell into the deepest of depression all over again! What I dubbed “a very sad, sad sickness!” I plunged further than I think I’ve ever fallen before… and I didn’t see reason in ever rising above the waves of weariness ever again. In actuality, it was really super scary. I was drowning in darkness and dooming despair…. and I couldn’t make sense of all of this every-day-ness of what we all every day daily do. It’s truly NO WAY at all to Live! Thankfully I awoke this morning to a brighter mood (if even not yet the most joyful one)… and I have even greater hope for my tomorrow. And crazily (why did I even stop to speak I wonder?), I said all of that to say that I feel I know exactly the sentiments of written above feelings! “Vanity of vanities.. All is vanity!” THANKFULLY though… despite our sometimes feelings, our GOD always has reason!!! Thank You, Lord! Forgive me for my sorrow! Forgive me when I whine! Regardless of my wailing, I have MUCH, MUCH, MUCH to be thank-FULL for! And dear Melissa, thank you for sharing what at first seems a very untimely post. 🙂

  7. 57
    His Jules says:

    Thanks Melissa for this thought-provoking post! I have just come through a very fiery summer and now find myself fighting the feelings of restlessness because I am no longer involved in a fiery fight! I think that it is precisely when we feel restless or when we are so run-down by the busy-ness of this life that we have to seek harder, to pursue God with relentlessness so that we can push through to the joy in the everyday grace that God gives us. To slow down our hurry as Ann Voskamp so eloquently says and just be still and know that HE IS GOD and HE is ENOUGH.

    Thank you for this reminder that although at times we may feel like we are on this pilgrimage alone, that we all encounter the same feelings of disenchantment,and yes even dark depressing thoughts but we don’t have to live there. There is Joy if we keep pressing on.

    I always enjoy your writing because it is meat to chew on all through the day. Thanks again.

  8. 58
    Traci says:

    I love the way you can put into words how I don’t even know where to begin. I get so burned out on the monotony of life. I work in a hospital and it seems that all my co-workers do is complain about the healthcare system, the entitlement of Americans….the welfare system, how our country is going broke and on and on. All the while, thinking of missions trips like the one you took to India and the one Amanda just returned from in Equador. I feel like I like in a country of hogs. It is sickening.

    My saving grace is my children and seeing their excitement with life. They are not burned out. They are not jaded. Every day holds something new in their eyes. If not for them, I could see myself jumping off a bridge.

    You said it much better though.

    Love to you. Glad you posted today.

    Traci

  9. 59
    Jennifer H., Houston says:

    Beautifully thoughtful post!

    Your last sentence, “…despite our sorrow or dissatisfaction, who knows, we might just stumble on joy,” felt like you could have been sitting in on my ladies Bible study/book club. We are going through Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. Such a great story about finding joy when we can thank God for His grace…even when, especially when we are going through hard and/or mundane seasons.

    Wish we could chat about it over coffee, but this will do just fine. May you be richly blessed this thanksgiving, especially finding joy in the beautiful mundane!

  10. 60
    Margie says:

    Wow. I’m practically speechless after reading this Melissa. Every once in awhile, someone else’s words perfectly mirror my own thoughts, ache, longings….. Thank you.

    Along these same lines, over the years I’ve fallen in love with Michael Card’s open honesty about the persistent pain of life and have given many people his book, A Sacred Sorrow: Reaching Out to God in the Lost Language of Lament, and the workbook that goes with it.

    It goes through the cries of the Psalmists, who spoke freely to God, and sometimes at Him, about the painful, difficult, scary and unjust things of life. It’s a worthwhile, feed-your-soul read.

    Melissa, what better time could there be than Thanksgiving season to gratefully take God up on His invitation to come bodly before the throne of grace to find mercy and grace to help us in our time of need? It’s perfect. Sometimes the seemingly mundane can be as painful, albeit different, as the crises we face.

    HUGE blessings to you all this season and to all my siestas on here! I learn from all of you!

    Margie

  11. 61
    Kelly says:

    YES!! I love your take on all this Melissa. I’ve found that the holiness that I bring to the ‘little’ things is in direct proportion to my spiritual maturity(on any given day) Nothing in my day can be mundane if I choose to do it as an act of worship. When I’m throwing a tantrum it’s usually because I’m not seeing the bigger picture. The attitude of service to God is what makes me transcend the daily duties of homeschool, laundry, cooking and kindness. When I’m lacking in willfulness to change my attitude—I beg of God to give me new eyes.

  12. 62
    Anita says:

    Melissa
    I was going to ask if you could remove my earlier post. I went back and read it and I felt that is was not honoring to my wonderful, faithful Lord and Savior! I did not mean it that way at all and I am not happy with how it sounds. I hope it is possible to take it off. Thank you so very much!

  13. 63
    Ginny says:

    Thank you, Barzun. Thank you, Qoheleth. Many thanks to the amazing Wendell Berry. Thank you so much, Melissa! And mostly…Thank You, God!! I needed to hear from all of you today. And you all delivered!

  14. 64
    Karen says:

    Thank you for the encouragement Melissa! I struggle with monotony. But then God brings me a fresh glimpse of Himself through someone else’s testimony and I am revived for one more go-round.

  15. 65
    Anne says:

    I had never thought of Ecclesiastes as a book about monotony. I would have said “futility,” but I think you are on to something interesting.

    I looked back over my own blog posts on Ecc. from when I was teaching it on Wed. nights, and I have to admit that I taught it with one finger firmly wedged in the NT. Qohelet’s continuous lament that “This too is meaningless” always seems to follow a comment about death. Life is meaningless because death ends it; nothing has lasting value.

    From a Christian point of view, however, life has meaning because of the resurrection and the promise of eternity. If my existence continues after death, then some things in life have value, but only those things that can be transferred into the next life with me. The vanity (emptiness) of this life will give way to what Paul called “an eternal weight of glory.” The point of life, therefore, is not in life itself, but in what God is using our experiences to create in us – the glory that will be revealed hereafter.

    I don’t mean to be wordy, but I’ve had one of those weeks that seem to be all frustration and futility. I think I needed to speak to myself!

  16. 66
    Barbara says:

    Yep, I’ve been feeling what you’ve described. A few weeks ago I was totally dissatisfied with life, bored with the monotony of it all and very tired of negative changes occurring a lot in my life. It finally dawned on me that I was genuinely, for the first time that I can remember, homesick for Heaven. I can’t wait for that time when all that we do will be purposeful and all relationships will be as they were meant to be – and no more good-byes!!!!

  17. 67
    Carol from Coopersburg says:

    Melissa’s post relates to where I’m at today… and the second confirmation tonight that it isn’t just me.

  18. 68
    Karen E says:

    You bring Joy, Melissa, because of God at work in and through you. Thanks be to God!

  19. 69
    Peggy Stovesand says:

    Will you be offering any special thing for the Siestas that have been faithful to do their scripture all year but just cannot attend the big shindig in January in Texas???

  20. 70
    kimberly mason says:

    hello Melissa! We’re doing the James study in January, and when i read a little of it and saw that you had contributed I was even more excited about the study!

    your post brings to mind Psalm 30:5b
    “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

    i know what you mean about monotony, but i have found in my own life that with God even monotony is an adventure if I can just stay in the word! That’s one of my favorite things about Him! He makes everything good!

    By the way, what are you doing since you decided you finished school? Are you on full time at LPM?

    Look forward to meeting you in January!

    God Bless!
    Kimberly

  21. 71
    Makaela says:

    So deep, Melissa! And good. Read a recent article on challies.com about William Cowper’s life (18th Century poet and A Great among hymn writers, who suffered deep depression and mental illness) your post made me think of it. The vanities of this world leave nothing for our souls and yet we pursue it as though it breathes life. Often leaving us questioning our God when we may never really understood Him to begin with.
    Here is the article:
    http://gavinortlund.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/william-cowpers-letters/

  22. 72
    DeeDee says:

    Your words were a confirmation of what I have been going through. Working in a manufacturing plant day after day, year after year. I have been saying the same thing lately. What is all this for? And am I the only one who feels this way? Your words lifted my spirit!
    Have a blessed Thanksgiving !

  23. 73
    Megan JoyBurdzy says:

    Just getting verse up – Megan JOY, Calgary AB, Canada, “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit. – Psalm 147:5, (NIV)

  24. 74
    Colette says:

    It is supposed to say dieing process not firing process!! :-/

  25. 75
    Colette says:

    This reminded me of what I was feeling the other day! I have a special client who is losing her husband to cancer and is going through the terrible process of watching him suffer and experiencing the dieing process! I have been through it more times than I care to remember but I told her I have no idea how she feels because I have not had to go through it with my husband!! She has never experienced losing anyone, not even her parents so the very 1st person is her soul mate and her other half!! I just could not help thinking about how life goes on, and people laugh and go about their day, but have no idea how much your own heart is breaking! We discussed that, and how she is handling each day is by accepting what is happening. That is truly trusting God in your life! I told her that I know so many people that have never experienced that love she has for her husband. But that is why it makes it so hard to see them suffer and have to say goodbye. My heart just goes out to her, but also makes me rely on God more because He knows the plans for our lives!! So this Thanksgiving I will be especially thankful for my husband!! And I will find joy even in the painful and heartbreaking situations!! Thanks for this thought provoking post!!

  26. 76
    Karina says:

    What a thought provoking post, Melissa. I was momentarily transported to the times that I had so felt and identified with Ecclesiastes’ “Nothing is new under the sun.” The first time was as I was nearing the end of university and contemplating my professor’s assertion that I should consider going to academia. At that time, that verse really gave me direction; I really had nothing to add in the field I was studying in, and it was like a fresh breeze that closed that door. Then there was the time when I read the same parts and felt strangely comforted because I was working in a fear drenched software business – everyone afraid of being replaced and becoming obsolete… And there are other countless times I drew out from Qoheleth’s words nuggets of life. Most of the time I was just plain thankful someone penned those words describing the whirr of discomfort in my brain and heart! Hallelujah!

    But the part that spoke to me tonight the most, was this part:

    “Usually when I’m jaded or facing a full-on existential crisis, my tendency is to stop praying, worshipping, and meditating on Scripture. In short, I just stop doing whatever I was doing before to connect with God and His people. But when we’re questioning it all and angry with it all is precisely when we need to push back against the darkness and confusion by engaging anyway. ”

    You know, I must say, I’m sort of relieved that I’m not the only one that does that! 😉
    I may not be angry or questioning it all, but whenever I seem to just fill up inside (whether it be whirr of brain noise or feelings or just plain too much to think about) I need time to digest (for the lack of better word) and come to a full stop. But, oh boy did that ever back fire big time on me before… time and time again 🙁 I know in my head it makes no sense, but I seem to find myself doing it still.

    Ever since we started on this wild adventure of moving around as family, I’ve been confused, perplexed, and simply on an emotional roller-coaster ride. I have been putting my foot in front of the other doing what He left me doing last and putting myself out there, and making it somehow. Your post reminded me that I need to take all that I have and engage God in this brain-blur which sometimes I cannot even put into words. Thank you!

    ps I must check out Wendell Berry.

  27. 77
    Wendy says:

    I must admit I even feel this about the Bible certain days. Yes I know the verses yes I know what to do according to the Bible but because I don’t “feel” anything my mind wanders and I lose joy reading it. I know this is a condition of my heart and I am repentant and want God to change that in me

  28. 78
    Naomi says:

    Melissa: Your timely post brought to mind these verses. I am always so blessed to read your insights.

    “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” Psalm 90:14

    “Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.” Psalm 86:4

    “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” Psalm 143:8

    You said this: “Sometimes we’re not strong enough to exult in monotony, but if we continue to be engaged with the world God loves and persistent in faithfulness despite our sorrow or dissatisfaction, who knows, we might just stumble on joy.” Amen to this! May the Lord help us to see beyond our circumstances and monotony, and like a watchman on the wall, as your mom well said it, we can also say “My King cometh”

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

    Siestas: Please pray for me and my family.

  29. 79
    Jackie B says:

    A Huge Heartfelt “Thank You”, Melissa! Your timing for sharing this insight and wisdom is perfect. As I walk through this challenging time; tending to new physically and emotionally demanding family needs and work requirements, all while stretching out for the Lord, I recognize the thoughts and feelings of Qoheleth. I am grateful for the reminder to cling to the Lord and look for His joy. It truly does come as G_d is faithful!

  30. 80
    Katie says:

    excellent post, Melissa! I much enjoyed your take on these texts–very helpful to me personally!

    Would you consider posting a list of favorite/important reads?

  31. 81
    Carol O'Keefe says:

    Such profound thoughts-this is a challenging read! So much food for thought, especially at this time of year and at this time in our period of economic crisis. Without Jesus’s hope and ultimately being with Him, all is vanity!

  32. 82
    Stephanie says:

    Melissa,
    You are not going to believe this but last night I was on page 208 of Living Beyond Yourself and reading Ecclesiastes 1!! If I hadn’t finished so late, I may have checked email and seen your post, but God saved that blessing for this morning after I had ‘slept on’ my own thoughts. Your post just brought it full circle and matches the season I find myself in. Isn’t God amazing that way?! What a tangible example of our connection to Him and each other. I get so excited to receive His confirmation through circumstantial experiences, and He does it all the time. We serve an awesome God!

  33. 83
    Courtney Bethany says:

    Dear Milissa & Siestas, This post is going to help me in this season, I AM GOING TO SHARE IT With my family & friends it will help us as a focus point & conversation Piece, I see the verse your Mom posted this time is working on me through this post, it is my verse also and for the same reasons!!! Thank you, Praise God and the Holy Spirit, In His Grip xoxo Love & hugs & prayers, hope to post more on this later, when I am not quite this tired! I just love you all & Siestaville!!!

  34. 84
    Sharie says:

    Oh Melissa,
    How you speak to my heart, and from my heart. I love God’s timing. I brought this up yesterday and left it on my computer all day, but it wasn’t until this morning that I actually got to it. This morning, when I needed it the most.
    I am very optimistic, resting in knowing that “God has it”. There is hope in every situation far above what my mind could ever begin to comprehend. My optimism and hope drive loved ones crazy sometimes.
    There are those times when the hope is there, pushed to the back of my mind, and I allow the heaviness of it all to take over. Just as you said, I pull away from the very thing that feeds my soul and carries me. After I waller in it a bit, God’s grace gives me strength to engage again. To come back home. And there, always, is the joy. The love. The strength and power from above wraps itself around my entire being as I grab onto His hand and cling. And I ask myself, why? Why do I step away. And He reminds me that even when I do, He is still here.
    Thank you for your blog. I don’t feel so alone 🙂
    Hugs.
    Sharie

  35. 85
    Gretchen says:

    Woe. Your post is amazingly timely. Lately, as I have been watching the news and reading the internet about on all that is going on in this world, I have had those exact same thoughts. It oftentimes feels like, well, that there is nothing I can do – it’s all spiraling downward and the end times are coming swiftly. But then, the Holy Spirit nudges, and says, “You can pray.” And as I struggle with the monotony of the every day, of what even feels like the same day lived over and over again, the Lord reminds me that the time is near. How exciting that we get to live in these days. How wonderful to know that our God sees, He knows, He is perfectly in control. And I am reminded of why we are here – to give God glory and to share the truth of who He really is. And in the same way, wonderfully, strangely, everything takes upon it a much greater meaning – that the whole point of doing this thing is not what the world has been selling, but the whole point is HIM! In that context, somehow, everything takes on greater meaning. I don’t know if I explained that right, but I praise God that He is showing us that yes, life can be difficult. But if we keep our eyes on the One who made it, its purposes are being made clear. What this world has been selling (and to my shame, I have often bought — sometimes on layaway!) is nothing but vanity. Oh, but what a privilege we have to actually have a real, live relationship with the Creator of it all. Where we are known and loved and where we can know and love Him back.

    Father, help me (us!) to fear You and to keep Your commandments that You might be glorified. Thank You for sometimes making us see the mundane, so that we might seek the true life found in You. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

    Blessings,

    Gretchen

  36. 86
    Cindy says:

    Your mother must be so proud of you. What an amazing mind you have. Wonderful post.

  37. 87

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts in this post! I do feel like during the low times it can be the hardest to seek God, but that is exactly what is needed the most in those times. It’s easy to put it off and make that time last even longer. I know I need to remember that Praise precedes victory even in the mundane times!
    Lori

  38. 88
    Del says:

    Four year ago when I broke my wrist, elbow, and the bones in between so severly that I needed metal replacements, all I wanted was to get back to the ‘normal’ life I so often complained about before! I couldn’t wait to cook, clean, go food shopping, put a shower cap on(hard with one hand!)etc. Not only did I ask God in prayer to restore my ‘boring’ life, I thanked Him for it when I got it back(with some limitations)! St. Therese of Liesieux(sp?) spent her life immersed in doing ‘the little things’ well, in love, and for His glory and it was more difficult(even with His ever present grace) than if she attempted to climb a mountain. Look up her writings some time. Happy Thanksgiving, Sisters.

  39. 89
    Mandy says:

    I loved this article. It seems that recently the mundaneness of life has been a black cloud on many things, my faith included. I am not a wethered Christian, nor am a newly converted one. I am right where I am and I think that is why this article spoke to me so much. I have gotten past the “newness” of it all and have yet to reach that place where I have “been there, done that”. In fact, it seems as if, right now, at this time, I have found that place where the future meets the past and the past has only the hope of the future and in that vicous circle I cannot bring forth the energy to see more than the vagueness of it all. I read Ecclisiates for the first time probably close to a decade ago, yet find that I go back to it repeatedly; more so than any other book in the Bible. Why? Probably because it is a healthy dose of perspective, and I have found, and am still learning, that life, in all manners of being, require perspective. Thank you for your words.

  40. 90
    Redeemed says:

    I may be a little out of my depth here…I cannot quote Proust or G.K. Chesterton….but I was reminded of a great quote from one of my favorite Shaun Groves songs!

    “If I can get past
    All of the deadlines
    Demons of daily grind
    Then I can, I can see You.”

    Thanks for the thoughts, Melissa! You always challenge us to think *up*! 🙂

  41. 91

    melissa,

    I so appreciate this view of giving thanks. the monotony of life is probably the biggest hindrance to enjoying life I can think of. how eloquently you do put that. when God speaks or touches me, It is the biggest relief of monotony and I breathe a sigh of relief and feel like I am alive again. Yesterday was one of those times. I was caught up in the endless minutae of being a mom, a wife, a caregiver, and all the other things society demands me to be. I had read my Bible and prayed but it felt more like the right thing to do than being refreshed by God. I was running into Target and in my hurried path into the store I saw a little boy about two years old being led out of the store by the hand. he had on his face the most contented happy expression, and he was clutching a plastic dinosaur.. Still with the price tag on it. His little face made me stop and look at him. I’ve seen lots of toddlers, in fact I raised 4 of them, so little ones and their ways are not strange to me. but his little face just reflected absolute joy and contented ness. it was a picture and a sermon… And I’m still pndering it.

    “The whole earth is full of his love”.

    Heidi

  42. 92
    Brandi says:

    Oh Melissa,

    It is like the Lord told you to write that just for me. I am so in that season of “is this all there is?” Thank the Lord you are one who listens to His guidance and shares for those of us, who right now, just need a swift kick of God’s grace. Thank you so much.

  43. 93
    J says:

    I can so relate! I don’t understand the reason behind disillusionment. Part of my perfectionist tendency wants to say it is something I am not doing right, that I am not “seeing God in the mundane” or that I’m not “choosing joy,” things I’ve heard countless times as the appropriate response to depression or cynicism. But, at my heart I long to be filled with overwhelming joy in the presence of God. I pray for the Lord to reveal himself to me this way again. In fact, before the past 5 years I’ve spent in the desert, I had this relationship with the Lord. It’s as if I have tasted of the goodness and joy in the presence of God and long for this intimacy to return. I believe that I long for it because I know what it is that I am missing!

    So, I have prayed countless prayers to the Lord in desperate longing for a sense of his presence – which I believe is ultimately what I am after. But perhaps the Lord has withheld this sense of his presence from me in order to test my faith. It must be so. Some could say that I don’t “seek him” well enough, because hey, the Bible says that, “if you seek him you will find him if you seek him with all your heart” but I think the God we serve is merciful, and any attempt to turn toward him is enough. So, it’s not that I’m not doing enough, or trying hard enough to find him, or to enjoy him, or whatever, because that is what my flesh tells me I need to do. It’s that the Lord is doing something in my heart far beyond what I can see in the moment. I need to be still and wait patiently for him.

    In the past 5 years, I have been through the angry stages with God, asking why he has allowed such discouragement and disillusionment to take place. I have resisted him and fought him. I believe he has heard my cries. I’m not out of the desert, but I have come to a greater sense that God is accomplishing his purposes in me despite the desert. I still take a depression pill, get caught up in over-thinking life and why it seems so vain, and perhaps I will always have a tendency to take life too seriously. (But ironically, sometimes I am “surprised by joy” and filled with love and laughter where I could read this post and think, “Who is that? Live is fun, girl!”) Crazy, I know.

    Just the other day I was very overcome with sadness at the aging of my grandmother, whom I dearly love. And it made me angry at some level because I ask, “What is the purpose of life? You are young one day and old the next. The flesh fails and we all end up dead anyway.” I know, these are terribly dark thoughts, but it’s honest. And I put myself in her shoes and imagined losing the abilities that I had once had in my youth. I can’t tell you the sadness. I love my granny. But, then, I turned to the Lord and cried out to him. And what I sensed from him is he saying that this sense of sadness I have about life, and putting myself in others’ shoes, could also be labeled compassion. And that these moments when I am overcome with an all-encompassing sense of the purposelessness of life, that I can pray. It sounds trite. But, it is an opportunity to feel God’s heart. He is saddened by our sadness (I believe, anyway). Jesus wept. We read that in the Bible. And when he wept, he knew that he had the power to raise Lazarus from the dead. But he had compassion. I like to avoid sadness, because it hurts, but the truth is that God has allowed himself to feel pain. And I think that sin and its effects in our world sadden him. We can join him and use the compassion he gives us to pray for others who may be suffering. That’s the crazy thing about suffering – you can comfort others with the same sort of comfort you have received. And Jesus comforts us in our suffering, too.

    This is my journey, and although part of me wants to blame seminary for the deadness or dryness of my heart, ultimately I believe my life is in the Lord’s hands, and that one day, some sense will be made out of the suffering I have endured. Our suffering is for his glory, even when we don’t see it or feel it. And I think that disillusionment with life can be a form of suffering. In the end, it’s not about how good we are at praising God in all things small, as if it is about our performance, but trusting and obeying God in every season of life we may find ourselves.

    And perhaps even this community is God’s encouragement to us. So often it seems like I am the only one who feels this way – but I’m encouraged to see that others go through this same disillusionment as well! Thanks everyone for sharing – your honesty is refreshing.

  44. 94
    Vickie says:

    Melissa,

    Your post always makes me slow down….ponder deep (within for days),and grab a dictionary! I love them, sincerely. This heavy heart business and life apathy can be very crippling. Sometimes, I get apathetic toward many things, not just the most important thing, my walk with God. I feel like I’m on auto-pilot going through the motions of life. God doesn’t will this season but he will allow it. He knows its coming a mile away. The question is, as a child of his, will I turn to him or remain apathetic? Will I allow him to snap me out of it? I think during this time, our cup is empty or almost empty. He already knows this, but do we realize it? It’s a human condition we all must fight, its part of our brokeness. It’s like I’m trying to keep one eyeball on him and the other one on something/someone else. Funny thought, but it just won’t work. Then…..ever so quietly, he says, beloved child, look at me fully….drink my word to overflowing, this is what glorifies me. And the greatest thing ever, COME TO ME, JUST COME TO ME. More beautiful words have never been spoken! I think we go through this mundane life stuff because it causes us to yearn for him and his/our heavenly home all the more. I wonder would we still yearn for him and home if everything was fairly smooth sailing? He is growing us through the mundane….I know we know this but do we forget this from time to time.

    Anyway, sorry for rambling and all the “I’s” and “we’s”.

    Happy Holidays to every siesta. I love you all so much.

  45. 95
    Leanna says:

    Thank you for those words. One could say I can relate because I am in that very place right now. The timeliness of this post is just so God-like and there within that statement is the “surprise joy” that I stumbled upon this morning. Appreciate the depth of which you reach, it touched my soul.

  46. 96
    Beverly Hudson says:

    Well said dear one, well thought through and well said.
    Have a blessed Thanksgiving.
    Beverly

  47. 97
    Mitzi says:

    Wow, couldn’t get past the second paragraph. Too much for my brain.

  48. 98
    Suey Caldwell says:

    Melissa Gay MF
    thx a bunch for your post. Mind boggling and so true.
    The JOY of the Lord is our strength

    Im about to attend my 9th funeral in 2011. A client that
    i have been taking care of for 4 years died Thurs and she talked
    me into reading Eccl to her alot.
    Keep up the joy MMF..God bless you and your fam in 2012
    hope to cya when i cya
    SueC

  49. 99
    Krista says:

    Melissa,

    I hadn’t heard of Barzun’s book. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about it and other sources that are about the topic, esp. the Bible.

  50. 100
    Jen H. says:

    I love this Melissa. My husband and I have been talking a lot about this very thing lately. I think it hits harder when you’re nearing 40 and think about what’s come before and what lies ahead and can’t see much change in circumstances that God has placed in our lives that will remain there. But I love your quote about how the world that has brought us sorrow and disappointed us sometimes catches us by surprise and brings great happiness, too. Sometimes those very things that we’re trudging our ways through are the same things that can bring us immeasurable joy that we wouldn’t otherwise have in our lives. Just love this… have a blessed day! And Happy Thanksgiving

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