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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  1. 101
    Dayna says:

    So needed this today Melissa!! I am right there at this moment. But I had a great morning in the word and then to read your message was another boost to my day!! Thank you so much. I have a tough week ahead and now I feel more energized for it. Love to you and your family~Have a wonderful Thanksgiving : )
    Love, Dayna

  2. 102
    Missy S says:

    Thanks for this, Melissa! Sometimes I get caught up in the admittedly self-absorbed line of thinking that if my life seems mundane then I must not be in God’s will. Thank you for reminding us the mundane is a part of the faith journey. I love this quote from Wednesday’s My Utmost for His Highest, which speaks to a similar theme: “It is one thing to go through a crisis grandly, but another thing to go through every day glorifying God when there is no witness, no limelight, no one paying the remotest attention to us.”

    Just yesterday, I was also reminded that if we look deeper into the cynicism of Qoheleth, we will stumble onto joy, as you say. I happened to be studying Genesis 2:7 and the symbolism of “dust” in Scripture. One of the verses that Boice references in his commentary on Genesis was Eccl. 3:20, where Solomon says that man is no different from the beasts because he was created from dust and to dust he returns. Boice points out, however, a wonderful truth – yes, we were created from dust, but unlike the beasts, God breathed his spirit into us, which makes us completely different from the beasts! So, there smack dab in the middle of the Preacher’s cynicism, if you look closely enough, is an awesome reminder of who God is and who He created us to be. Thanks again for putting your thoughts down for us to share!

    P.S. I had never heard the the meaning behind the title Ecclesiastes – so cool!

  3. 103
    Paige Watson says:

    Oh how I love you Melissa! As I quickly read through your post I thought that doesn’t sound like Beth and sure enough it was you! I think I have a little bit of each of you ladies in me(your mom, your sister and you) and I’ve been so drawn to Ecclesiates lately but not really understanding it. I’m in the throes of single momhood and I guess the holidays make me a little sad knowing my precious children have to be back and forth between their dad and me. In fact I’m on my way to an Operation Christmas Child family day without my kids (their weekend with their dad) but I want to go and hopefully be a tool in God’s hands to encourage a child who needs to know that Jesus loves them. So with my acts of love I say “take that despair, I won’t let you win!”

  4. 104
    Donna says:

    Melissa,
    With the holidays coming and the family woes that come with them; we usually have a bit of frustration with our gathering. I pray every year that we would some how find real joy and love when we get together. Your post was so good in reminding me that we are to look to the Lord in all things. Simply that!
    Good thoughts!
    Thank You

  5. 105
    Janet says:

    When I was going through a very, very long, dark night of the soul, the wise words of Elisabeth Elliot were something I held onto: “Do the next thing.” When I could no longer glean any joy from things I had always loved (music, reading), when there was a frighteningly dark core of anger within me, when I could physically feel fear threaten to paralyze me, I remembered the phrase “sacrifice of praise,” and it was a true sacrifice, difficult and painful, to give God any glory. And when I refused to give in to the lies that seemed to be the final reality, I stumbled onto the command to “tell myself the truth.” And the Truth, Jesus, did set me free. And I continue to remind myself, now that the anger is gone, the fear has disappeared and the joy has returned, that the disciplines of life will help guard my mind and soul.

  6. 106
    Carolyn says:

    I enjoyed reading your comments. I am going through the same ordeals of disappointment. I am learning to Praise Him through troubling times.
    As I began to read your Post, these scriptures came to mind:
    Sing praise to the LORD, you saints of His,
    And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy
    name.
    For His anger is but for a moment,
    His favor is for life;
    Weeping may endure for a night,
    But joy comes in the morning. Psalms 30:4-5(NKJ)

  7. 107
    Ashley says:

    Oh, Melissa! Though admittedly, I have to read your posts very slowly, and generally a couple times over…they are so refreshing!

    I must also brag on your references to the original Greek and Hebrew text when you write. There is just so much beauty, to me, in those words. I’m still a “baby Christian” of sorts, so I can only hope to, one day, learn how to incorporate that into my study as well.

    The line in your post that most struck me (to the core, I might add) was “We don’t want to be told to find joy in the little things because we’re simply too jaded by the overall picture.”

    As a wife and mother of two little ones (5 and 2) I sometimes find myself missing out on the opportunity to soak in moments to while “hurrying here” or “getting the xy&z done.” Yes, the house needs to get cleaned; yes, it would also be nice to arrive to destinations on time…but it’s also – and perhaps most importantly – crucial to enjoy the time it takes to get there. Chores (as I have discovered) don’t go anywhere…but the babies do grow up ever so quickly, time not spent with the Hubby passes and doesn’t come back…

    I’d be most wise to take advantage of the moments during the day-to-day and thank the Lord for each one. Stretch: I’d be most wise to even find joy in the challenges encountered along the way as well.

    This may be me oversimplifying your post a great deal, but I’m so thankful for the reminder. You are so encouraging. Thank you for sharing!

  8. 108
    patty says:

    Melissa, very interesting read. I love to delve into something that forces me to use the dictionary, but I’ll never disclose the words whose definitions I had to seek! My life has been surrounded with depression and addiction. God has much to say about the ways to battle these evil attacks, scripture too numerous to mention here, but the reality that has, recently, become so poignant to my heart is the value of perserverence and if I may offer, I believe that speaks to the same element of awareness of which you write. Life does indeed get boring, sometimes our Cinderella / Super Woman / romance novel ideals of life get crushed to dust(we know these are make-believe even as we walk wide eyed into their grips). And even worse, sometimes our Godly spiritual hearts’ desires get pulverized, especially if we are measuring our life with an earthly tape measure. So, these disappointments have, slowly as I practice some God discernment, led me to give credence to the truth of why we are left here on this planet. We are here to serve the King and glorify His Presence, which may or may not come with a lot of bells and whistles for us, at least not this side of Heaven. Now, I’m all about joy and I give thanks to Him for the joyful attitude and contentment He has wrapped around my soul. But I can’t stay there 24/7. So,to reiterate your very point, serve God and keep His commandments sometimes has to carry its own reward, in terms of personal satisfaction and peace of knowing that we know the Truth and we believe the Truth will set you free. The blessings are the icing on the Holy cake. And I do like me some icing.

  9. 109
    Kara says:

    I can relate to this. I have often contemplated the meaninglessness of life. It seems nothing is truly lasting. I know God rewards each person for the work they do. That is lasting. But there is something about what we do on this side of heaven that seems to simply vanish. I’ve brought immense joy into people’s lives at times, to then have the same people upset with me. I’m not offended by this but I do ponder how limited intense joy and thankfulness can be. And be sure I have done the very same thing to others. So I know all the good I do is meaningless on many levels.
    I told my children the same thing happened to Jesus. They wanted ti make Him King, then crucify Him and then the same people beat their chests in sorrow and wondered what they cod do to be saved. Moses same thing. They rejected him when he was in Pharoah’s house, rejoiced when he came to deliver them and then when things got bad they wanted to stone him.

    So I know we are to do good and I continue to do that but I don’t take people’s opinions to heart. They’re feelings are often shifting shadows in many ways. I’ve had people who hated me, love me and people who love me, begin to hate me.

    That’s a factor of the mundane that I noticed, among other things. Thanks for sharing! Nice to hear this addressed.

  10. 110
    Stacie says:

    Hello,
    My name is Stacie and I am a missionary in Haiti. I come before you tonight BEGGING for prayers for our orphanage…..we were robbed at gunpoint last night by 7 men. By the grace of God no one was seriously injured, but the emotional effects on the staff and children involved may last a while….they are all pretty shaken up. The orphanage is called the Hands and Feet Project.

    Thank you, In Him,
    Stacie

    • 110.1
      Melissa says:

      Dear Stacie, I am so sorry to hear this news and for all of the emotional pain/trauma that this terrible event has likely caused. We will be praying for all involved in the Hands and Feet Project. Please keep us posted. Love, Melissa

      • Happy Heart says:

        Oh,Stacie, I am so sorry to hear this. Please know that we are praying for all you.Siestas, please pray for the orphanges and missionary homes in Haiti. There have been reports of several robberies there.

        PS It is so good to hear from you Melissa.I have missed you.

  11. 111
    Angie says:

    Thank you for sharing, Melissa. I’m always interested to hear about what you’ve been reading. I think this post goes along perfectly with this time of year when we are reminded to “count your many blessings, name them one by one.” Such a simple song but it’s in focusing on what the Lord has done in my life and reminding myself that He is the One who is guiding my steps, that I can break free whenever I slip into a “funk.” I’m so glad He understands!

  12. 112

    Melissa,
    Thank you for this truly beautiful post. I so enjoyed finding and reading it this evening. To be reminded of the simplistic truths in Ecclesiastes was a blessing. I have always loved this book, especially when I was going through troubled times or really anytime for that matter :), but one I would turn too when I needed to read something to soothe my mind. I loved that it really spoke to what I was or could be feeling. It never gets old.
    I had to laugh when you said you used to think the ending was anti-climatic because I always thought the opposite! It was like even if whatever I was or am going through or thought I had questions with no answers…that when I would read those powerful last lines, that I would and still do think, Yes, that is enough answer for me even if nothing else makes sense! Does that make sense?! lol

    And I love that I always get a little lesson and learn something new when I read your posts! And tonight I learned about ‘Qoheleth’. Thanks! I love stuff like that.

    Many blessings to you and your family during this Thanksgiving week!

    In His love,
    michelle in VT

  13. 113
    Patti says:

    Beth, I am totally convinced because of my own dark and dreary days, that faith is where it’s at. I can’t see it or touch it but just like I don’t understand how my cell phone or gps works but I trust them to do what is expected. Our God is so good and even when I don’t expect it He changes my attitude and outlook and gives me a new hope all I have to do is keep the faith!!!
    Our God is bigger than any problem we could ever have!

  14. 114
    Dea says:

    I sense less apathy and more cynicism in the church over the past few years. Cynicism is more vocal than apathy. I hope that the brief statements on the vanity of life from Ecc. 1 don’t give us too much of leash to be cynical.

    No one gathers around to affirm someone who says, “Let’s do nothing.”

    More people will affirm the one who says, “Lets do nothing because it won’t change anything.”

    I just finished your Mom’s study on The Inheritance. I am more focused on the fact that what I do here matters there–in the place where we share Christ’s inheritance. And though I know she was playing off the heiress book to a degree, I agree boredom is not the will of God. (This is a great DVD study for you leaders out there! My classes loved it.)

    Thanks to both of you for the challenge to live the “wild ride” that is our life in Christ.
    I cleaned toliets last week (yes, more than one) and I thanked God that I have them. The little things aren’t little when we are looking through the perfect lens of God’s Word.

    I agree with your conclusion that we keep seeking Him, searching hard when the dry and meaningless times come. The break-throughs come and we are humbled that He came for us in the wilderness.

  15. 115
    Patti says:

    This is the first time I have read a post from you, melissa. How very interesting. I had to look up 2 words unfamiliar to me. I love the stretch. Nice to meet you…..on my way to Israel.

  16. 116
    Betty M says:

    Melissa,
    I was contemplating this Ecclesiastes passage myself not too long ago and thougth of something my dear friend who has since died of cancer once said. We were talking about all the tasks we had to do about this time one year and she said to me “you know it is all so futile.” I had to agree we asked each other why do we work so hard to clean the house? We dust and scrub and polish for what? To do it over again? We make a delicious holiday meal for what? To make another one? Every thing we do we need to do over and over again. Why do we keep up this endless futile dance in life only to have to do it all over again. I think of this so oten when I put up on my computer screen words for the book I should really write sometime. Is there any really new thought or concept out there that someone else has not written about in the history of the world? Is there really a new melody that has yet to be sung? Why do we do it? we are commanded by God to do it. The only thing I can see that is not a futile attempt is our reward in Heaven. I don’t think God really minds if the thoughts we share with others have been shared many times over in the history of Chrisitanity. There are always fresh ears to hear, There are those who have not heard these concepts before. Someone may have never heard that melody before. Though I may wonder why I keep up this futile attempt at a spotless house, I still do it over and over again because I know if I never kept at this meaningless task it would be far worse. Ao we do these things sometimes feeling the weight of weariness but we know these futile attempts here are not meaningless at all to the One who redeemed us and keeps us blameless for that day! Blessings to you on this Thanksgiving week!
    Betty M

  17. 117
    Carol Hulin says:

    Hey Melissa
    Thanks so much for the post. Wish we could sit down and discuss it over a cup of tea (hot tea Canadian style)…but alas we live way tooo far apart….
    You helpd me stop and think about how we humans tend to plod a long day after day, doing the mundane, the everyday, the “boring”. We never stop within that mundane to see His Joy. The Joy as listed in the Fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23 that I’m learning about right now from you mom’s study).
    *The Joy of being saved
    *The Joy of having our names written in His book of Life….
    etc.
    I’m praying those Joys will help me through the plodding, mundane days…and turn them into joyful moments with Him

  18. 118
    Elle says:

    Sorry, this is off topic but Beth asked us to remind her to post the cornbread dressing recipe…SO…

    Beth, Here’s your reminder.

    Pretty please.

    Luana

  19. 119
    Jo Ann says:

    Jo Ann – Lincoln, NE
    I took my troubles to the LORD; I cried out to Him
    and He answered my prayer. Psalms 120:1 NLT

  20. 120
    Kathy C. says:

    Jesus wants our joy to be full, He tells us so in the gospels, and the world presses in robbing us, and making us cynical and jaded. I think sometimes, we have to reach out and grab joy, choose joy, there is a strength that comes with joy. Nehemiah 8:10 The joy of the Lord is your strength.

  21. 121
    Brenda Payne says:

    Melissa,

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Day by day by day…when I awaken to face the mundane routine, if I hold on until I have spent time with God (and have consumed a few cups of strong, black coffee), I am ever surprised at the JOY that I find waiting for me in the world, both in seekers and believers…in the world that God loves so much.

  22. 122
    theHarborMom says:

    I appreciate your insight as to pressing through in our devotion to God during the mundane times. That is normally against our nature, which in my case is to sleep just a while longer so that I can have more energy for the day. Sleep seems to become more valuable than beginning my day with Jesus. I have stood in church and said, “Priase the Lord, oh my soul!” when it did not seem to want to do it on its own. With Jesus in the morning is the better place to be than on the pillow. Sometimes I move with obedience instead of joy, but I trust the heart will follow as the Holy Spirit moves in me.

  23. 123
    Diginee says:

    With tears streaming down my face . . . thank you Melissa.

  24. 124
    cindy says:

    I SO appreciate your comments here today. I have noticed apathy and cynicism creeping into my life. and I agree with you on this:
    “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.”
    I do try my best to appreciate the little things and also the encouragement you gave here to remained engaged and faithful and that i do. my hope is joy will return some day.

  25. 125
    Anne says:

    Melissa, Usually your blogs are way over my head, but I got this one! thanks 🙂

  26. 126
    Janet says:

    Show me your ways O Lord teach me your paths. Psalms 25:4 NIV

  27. 127
    Amy T says:

    Melissa it amazes me how our God is….this is one of the things I needed right now, today!! My life has been turned inside out and I don’t feel like I can put it into words, and you just did! Thank you for sharing, you give me joy!! Sometimes I feel all alone, like there is nobody saying how are you, and you just did!! Bless you!!

  28. 128
    Karen says:

    I have been following this blog for about a month, having participated in many of the teaching series. This really spoke to me today, because I have been experiencing EXACTLY this same thought pattern and emotion (or lack thereof). I appreciate your insight and sharing. There is comfort in being told to “suck it up and just obey”! (in so many words). Thank you for your ministry and God bless!

  29. 129
    sepik-meri katie says:

    Lol melissa!! I get an email when there’s a new post, but it doesn’t tell me who wrote it, so when i saw the title of my email I said Ohp! Melissa’s been on! so sure enough now that i’m finally signing in to report my memory verse i saw it was you 🙂 knew it, and love ya for it!

  30. 130

    I really needed this perspective today… and also just to be able to put words to the feeling I’ve been struggling with lately. It feels so yucky to have this feeling bubbling up inside my heart at precisely this season of the year, when joy is supposed to be an available commodity. But it’s not. Well, for me it hasn’t been anyway. I’m going to have to go back and dig in a little bit. Thanks for sharing and giving us some meat to chew on today. 🙂

    Love all you sweet girls and Happy Thanksgiving!
    Sasha

  31. 131
    Maria Dickerson says:

    Melissa, Thank you for being so vulnerable to us with this post! I have been in this “yuck” lately myself and so ashamed! God has used this post to jolt me back to the things I love (prayer and His Word and just being with Him)!
    Thanks.

  32. 132
    Lindsay says:

    I don’t think this post is oddly timed at all (ref, your comment about the Thanksgiving holiday). The seeming futility of life can be overwhelming sometimes. We need messages like this to keep us going. Thank you, Melissa. Wonderful post.

  33. 133
    Michayila says:

    I am wondering if the wrestlings of my soul, where joys are difficult to find, where transitions seem to reveal more things being uprooted than mere physical change, and when staying steadfast seems meaningless at the time…if that is where HE wants to expose my heart to see where continued healing is necessary…and maybe HE is not so quick to let me feel settled in these places of my soul so I can recognize my need to continue to engage in HIS healing in every place within me.

  34. 134
    Jennifer T. says:

    Melissa – Been a few days since I’ve been able to check into the blog to see whatzup and found your thoughtful post! Loved it. Since this comment is so late in reply I have no idea if you’ll read it.
    I’m in the season of life that I’d almost consider the ‘tween years’ of adulthood. I am, I guess, middle aged? or early middle aged? 43 with three young kids. Whatever that makes me, I totally GET what you’ve articulated here! I’ve also had the wild call to home school my kids this year. It’s the first time I’ve had in awhile to daily – ALL DAY EVERY DAY – play referee, maid, nurse, pastor, teacher, cook, friend (and more, but it’ll make me tired to write it) to my kids. And they don’t respond like adults at all. Logical, calm arguments fall on blank faces. I’m too prideful to share what my illogical, crazed arguments do to them. So I pray and beg for wisdom, guidance, grace… all the stuff they and I need to be more like Jesus. And I get up and struggle through the same stuff on a new day! To quote the summary of the scripture on your post: ” although there is a copious amount of human action, nothing fruitful really happens at all.”
    BUT GOD. oh, sweet Jesus, thanks for “BUT GOD…” I think that gets me through the “nothing fruitful really happens at all” because it isn’t MY fruit that really matters.
    Oh, and I have stood staring at a wall of “Marriage” or “Parenting” or “Spiritual Formation” books at my local Christian bookstore or scanned a handful of Christian blogs and thought exactly your question: “How is it that everyone is talking, nonstop talking, but no one is saying anything new or interesting?” I’ve walked away with nothing in my bag out of total frustration. I totally get that feeling. Much of life is truly drudgery. Maybe that’s why some people (shhhh, it’s a secret that sometimes BELIEVERS) sorta fear heaven. They imagine it’s a lovely, chocolate filled, golden streets version of this life with a lot of the same thing to do over and over again but without illness or tears. I, personally am excited to be with my Jesus in an un-fallen heaven! But it freaks my husband and several other sweet ones I know right out. But that’s another subject. Back to your post: the times when I feel completely useless, I “go to the red words” as my son would say and read words both OLD and familiar from the mouth of my Savior. Gives me strength. Sometimes not right away. But it bears fruit, eventually… every single time. Because it can’t return to Him void. Yay, God!
    I’m so glad you write on this blog, Melissa. You make me think a lot. I’m confident we will both stumble on joy throughout the holidays and beyond!

    • 134.1
      Romona says:

      Jennifer, your words so blessed me. I am one of those that sometimes struggles with the thought of heaven – will I be able to survive eternity? I am so human – will I become bored and fall short of the glory of God. I have certainly not shared such thoughts with other believers for fear that having such thoughts means I am broken/disfunctional in my faith. I might add that I do not get overwhelmed by those thoughts anymore – God has revealed to me that those thoughts are a lie and a disception from the enemy. When those thoughts arise – I cast them down and declare that my God is more than enough and His Word is true and I trust in Him and I am comfortable with the knowledge that there are many things that I cannot comprehend but I TRUST IN HIM. Your post both revealed and reminded me that there is nothing that plagues me that is not common to men – my mind is not broken for having such thoughts and struggles – I am simply ‘normal’. Thank you.

  35. 135
    Romona says:

    Melissa,
    Your posts are one the wonderful reasons I love this blog. Such an encouraging mix of sipping tea and visiting with your mom, traveling with Amanda and delving a little deeper in theology with you.
    Thank you, Romona

  36. 136

    Melissa ~ Your post really rocked my Bible study world in a huge way! After 6 years of sitting at Qoheleth’s feet, my Bible study on Ecclesiastes is finally out and your words of wisdom made my heart smile big time!

    Treasured time in the Word reminds us that there really is an eternity out there where God calls us to join Him and we only have one shot to do this thing called life well!

    I could go on and on about the importance of filtering everything we do through the lens of eternity but I just wanted to tell you your post was spot on.

    It’s funny how in our Christian circles we talk about living for eternity, yet how often we live as if this life is all there is!

    It’s so easy to be intimidated by the grandness of it all. Like eternity is so far-reaching that it is beyond us…yet it’s truly found in the seemingly insignificant and dailies of our lives.

    May we live to make our eternities intentional each small second at a time.

    Hope you and your family have a fantabulous Thanksgiving!

  37. 137
    Melany says:

    I am always challenged to think by your posts, Melissa. This post was a very good reminder to keep going and moving forward with God when, frankly, we don’t see a reason in the world to do so. Eventually, the joy will return!

  38. 138
    Melany says:

    I always enjoy and am challenged to think by your comments, Melissa. What a great reminder to keep moving forward with God even when we don’t see a reason in the world to keep doing so. Eventually, the joy does return, and, yes, sometimes we just have to pass through seasons when we feel bleak.

  39. 139
    ruth says:

    Siesta Melissa, Praying for the PhD, excited to Buy the Book. 🙂 I not only love what and how you write, but am genuinely inspired by the responses. What an articulate and thoughtful group these Siestas are!
    I have come to believe that in the Lord’s complete, incarnational infusion in this world, there is a way in which the extraordinary of the Eternal can be perceived in the smallest moment and that perhaps that is some part of what it is to be given “eyes to see”–what it is to exalt in the mundane, and see that it is everything but mundane.
    Here is a quote from the writer Geneen Roth to this end (no theist, but she’s got the phenomenology right):

    “It’s like washing the dishes. If you focus on getting the dishes done so that your kitchen will be clean, you miss everything that happens between dirty and clean. The warmth of the water, the pop of the bubbles, the movements of your hand. You miss the life that happens in the middle zone–between now and what you think your life should be like.And when you miss those moments because you’d rather be doing something else, you are missing your own life.”

    I would expound by saying that if we attend to such moments, we are attending to the myriad gifts of God to us in this life–and thus to God Himself. Maybe this is as much the “exceedingly abundantly more than all you can ask or imagine” Paul writes of in Ephesians as some enormous success or occurrence in life.

  40. 140
    Kathy says:

    Melissa, I am one of your “BIGGEST” fans due to how I process, thank you so much for sharing your insights and studies- if I have the “facts” I can be much more open to the miraculous- just my nature- you give so MUCH to our walk with your brilliance and investigation- I do LOVE the search

    This will sound off track…

    Ecclesiastes 12:12 stopped me in my “tracks” – does not seem correct according to my frame of reference—-but I have had to reconsider

    Thank you Dear Sister in Christ for sharing your remarkable gifts with your Siestas- we are blessed- my world has fallen apart at a level I never guessed possible- what you bring to us is a great part of our healing- Lots of love, An Aunt Siesta

  41. 141
    charlotte says:

    Recently, I posted on FB my status something to the effect of: Now that I’m in my 50’s, I understand Ecclesiastes. Not to mention that “nothing is new under the sun,” especially when it comes to the world’s bad behavior (should that be a capital “W”?). Different nations, different power brokers, and same amoral, unethical behavior. When I listen to/read the news, I find no sophistication. The news is about the behavior we’re supposed to outgrow as children, but haven’t. That disappointment is the source of my greatest weariness.

    Regarding “Mercy Triumphs,” check the last line on page 44: I think “then” was supposed to be “when” unless you are missing some punctuation. And, YES, learning James’ name in the context of the 12 tribes and his half-brother’s name is a wonderful thing. A perfect blessing for Thanksgiving. Thanks.

  42. 142

    This post gives me much to think about, because I have had seasons like this, and cycle in and out of them, it seems. I’m dissatisfied with my days, thinking there has to be something I should be doing that is more of eternal value, but then I think, everything I do, I should be doing to the glory of God. You are right, the conclusion of Ecclesiastes has an answer for me there. To fear God and keep His commandments, because this is the whole duty of man. It seems like all mankind knows that there is more to life than what is seen, heard, and perceived through the senses on earth, longing deep within to have a life of fulfilling purpose, not purposelessness. If we were made for Him, to glorify Him, to love Him, and enjoy Him forever, shouldn’t our realization of that drive us to what is of eternal value, and not vanity? What is of eternal value? To fear God. To keep His commandments. Souls redeemed by Christ, our Savior… I was thinking on a verse in Proverbs this week, it talks about those who win souls as being wise. I want to redeem the time while I’m here as an ambassador for Christ. His bondslave, always fearing Him and keeping His commandments, because I love Him in an ever deepening way…not chasing after vain things, or having a mind wasted on vain and/or idolatrous thoughts…You always make me think Melissa, Blessings to you, ((HUGS))

  43. 143
    Heather Smith says:

    Melissa,
    I have been wanting to comment since the night I read this… but life is a bit busy this week for long comments and a thoughtful response… 🙂 So I just have two simple things to say. First, I always love your thought-provoking posts. Second, my husband preached a fabulous sermon years ago on Ecclesiastes…. and one thing I have NEVER forgotten was this: Indeed, UNDER the sun in our human perspective and smallness things do seem meaningless, but OVER the sun (metaphorically speaking)– in God’s sovereignty– there is always meaning and purpose in everything. And that sustains our joy and our worship in the pain, the mundane, and the journey.
    Blessings on you this Thanksgiving.
    Heather from Lewiston

  44. 144
    CB says:

    This post is hitting me right where I am. I have no reason to complain, and I won’t to anyone I love. I feel like I am losing joy….where its going I don’t know. I feel bored, restless, and silently cynical. It’s just not polite. Melissa, you posting this on the week of Thanksgiving was so necessary for those like me, I hope we are few. I know I was made to enjoy a sense of adventure, and I dont like to follow a crowd. I have had many adventures, and I am not truly unhappy in my life, there are many people and things that bring me great joy. There just are inner rumblings, if you will, that I feel discontented. I used to be heavily involved at church, and now I dont even want to try anymore.
    I am going to be thankful, in spite of myself, and focus on the wonderful blessings I have. This is more honest than perhaps anyone was bargaining for… I am sorry for that. Thank you Melissa for putting into words what needs to be revealed.

  45. 145
    Sharon J. says:

    Thank you!! Right where I am… needing to turn to God in the midst of the mundane…not that I turned away .. but have had more sleep and less study lately.. less early mornings with my LORD and it doesn’t help! Thank you for something I know but a great reminder… Honor/fear God and Keep His commandments this is the well spring of life!

  46. 146
    Seddy Bear says:

    I know I am a little late in reading and responding to this, but God’s timing is impeccable. I have been going through an existential crisis over the past few weeks and during this time I cannot even count how many times I have thought “all of life is vanity.” Reading this today, however, picked me up for several reasons. First being I was about ready to go back into pity party for myself mode, and this stopped me and allowed me to reconsider some things and also, it is always nice to know that one is not alone in a particular battle as in the only one going through a certain type of situation. It is helpful and healing to be reminded that other people face these battles too and prevail! Thank you so much for this post, Melissa It is what I really needed to “hear” right now!

  47. 147
    Sami Wilson says:

    Thank you. I’m there.

  48. 148
    Nichole says:

    Wow, I’m glad I finally had the time to catch up on this post!

    This is so relevant for me as a student of literature and the humanities. Just this past month as I have been studying modern art, I had been looking at the apparent entropy in it all: generation after generation has sought to break old patterns and create something fresh, new, and original, yet this process has raged on with such intensity that it seems we’ve exhausted every rule that could be broken. What is left to be pioneered, to create shock, to finally incite in us the sense of satisfaction we so restlessly seek? Not much, I think. Not much.

    There is no where to go in this world to fill the insatiable void for more within us, but to look to the One who makes all things new, whose depths can never be fully found out, whose endless array of mysteries will never cease to astound. Just so long as we don’t allow ourselves the audacity of thinking we already know all there is to know about Him. His unsearchable nature (among a gazillion other things) makes Him so worthy of our fear and reverence, and that fear of God is only the beginning wisdom.

    Thanks for the insight, Melissa. I desperately needed this reminder.

  49. 149

    I must confess I was a little worried when I read the title of this post and couldn’t even pronounce some of the words, but this actually made a lot of sense to me. I’m glad you mentioned people writing it off as depression, cause I’ve always thought Ecclesiastes sounds a little bit too much like me in a depressive episode. It’s interesting to me that people who do not have MDD as I have experience similar thoughts and feelings from time to time. I am definitely at a spot in my life where I am having to deliberately choose not to give in to depression and lay down and quit, but press into God and continue to seek Him even when it seems pointless. Just learning to do this in the last several months, and I’ve learned a lot and am doing so much better than I ever thought possible!!! Thank you, Melissa! I love your heart!

  50. 150

    Hello, you used to write fantastic, but the last several posts have been kinda boring¡K I miss your tremendous writings. Past few posts are just a bit out of track! come on!

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