“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” – Solomon
All of the pursuits of this life are vanity, all are vapor, all are chasing after the wind, an impossible pursuit that never ends and never brings deep and lasting satisfaction. So says Solomon.
Has anyone in all of literary history written words that are more realistic than these?
All things are full of weariness;
A man cannot utter it;
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor the ear filled with hearing.
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.
Has anyone ever written words that ring truer? We are dissatisfied because we must be dissatisfied. And we must be dissatisfied because God has put eternity in our heart (Ecc. 3:11). But we are locked in a temporal world. God created us to find our highest joy and delight in Him, but we chose to see delight in the things He made, and worship the creation rather than the Creator. Even those of us who have been drawn back to the Creator still turn to this side and and that, or to this idol or that idol.
We can cry out that we were made for more and meant for more from now until eternity. We will cry out from now until eternity, simply expressing what Solomon told us so much more pointedly many years ago–“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” This world cannot deliver all we want from it. This life cannot deliver all the satisfaction we long for.
This dissatisfaction is ugly when it paralyzes us with guilt or when it motivates us to act rashly out of guilt. It is unhelpful when it traps us in complacency and despair. Solomon did not advocate temporal guilt or cry out in complacency and hopelessness. Far from it–
I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil–this is God’s gift to man.
This dissatisfaction is a gift when it motivates us to pursue the best and purest source of delight. God’s gift to us is that we find all the pleasure we can, all the pleasure there is, in the good things of this life. God’s gift is that we pause and enjoy the rich scent of a rose in full bloom or watch the sunset until darkness has taken the sun’s last ray from the sky. These are pleasures to enjoy to the full with God’s richest blessing.
Even two thousand years ago Solomon could say, “Of making many books there is no end.” There is no end of books that expose our dissatisfaction and propose solutions. But none of those solutions last. None of the solutions deliver all we long for. We could follow every application in every book and still be discontent. And we will all die dissatisfied [with life in this world], still longing for more.
But those who die in Christ have the great promise that we will awake to all the pleasures and satisfaction we have ever longed for, and so much more besides.
– Tim Challies