Week 43 Is All Our Toil For Naught?

 By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell (Guest Blogger)

 Week 43

Scripture Readings: Ecclesiastes 1-2

Key Scripture Verses: Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 (NIV, Life Application Bible)

“A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

Sometimes in our lives we find ourselves spinning our wheels, going through the motions of everyday tasks and we seem to lose our way. It feels like we are “chasing after the wind.” It feels meaningless and we are caught up in it—that’s when we should stop, regroup, reflect on our lives and what we are doing. Ecclesiastes is about that—Solomon, who is considered by many as the wisest man who ever lived, has some age on him at this point and he is reflecting on his life.

He says that whether one be a fool or one be wise as he, the fate of man is the same—each man will toil and then leave his wealth and the fruits of his productivity to those who survive him and one cannot be sure they will appreciate all that went into it, that they will care for those possessions and wealth without squandering them away without a care. What a sad reflection this is. But, it rings true. Perhaps meaning is not derived from acquiring wealth and possessions.

In chapter 1 of Ecclesiastes, Solomon says that “everything is meaningless,” that every day is the same with the sunrise and sunset and the winds that come and go, that people come and go, live and die, “but the earth remains forever.” He laments that our labor seems to be in vain and that there is no meaning in any of it. He wants to know what the point is—“what do people gain from all their labors?”

I have a friend that would take care of everyone else but herself and before you knew it, she was sick, or she had gotten hurt—she was literally “stopped in her tracks.” She had to stop, she had to regroup, she had to consider what was next. Only when she stopped and took inventory was she able to realize that she could no longer continue on in the same way—something had to give. She had to take care of herself.

I sometimes think God allows this to happen to us, so that we will realize our need for him. I believe that when we are caught up in doing and doing and we think we have to do everything on our own strength, we will eventually have to stop—we might be stopped and have to stop. It is in these moments that we can grow, can learn from a new wisdom that God might reveal to us.

Our cited verse above might at first appear to indicate that we should all just be Epicurean in our attitudes—adopting the “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die” philosophy. But, Solomon says that even any enjoyment in that “is from the hand of God.”

I believe that in all this painful, what-does-it-all-mean-anyway reflection of Solomon’s, he finds the answer in a day-to-day journey with God. The meaning is derived from the journey in God’s care and trust. It is not about the stuff, not about the specific work, but about the relationship with him.

When the work we do honors God or shows love for someone, I believe we are doing his will, and he blesses the work, and we are able to derive some joy in it. That’s where the wisdom, knowledge, and happiness comes in.

I believe the joy in life comes from God and only God, because all good things come from God. Otherwise, as Solomon noted, it’s meaningless.

I believe that the true secret to happiness comes from being a faithful follower of Jesus Christ who came to give us life so that we might “live life more abundantly.”

May we stop and reflect on our lives and remember that it is he who gives us our daily bread, it is he who watches our comings and goings, it is he who cares for us, it is he who has eternal love for us, it is he who deserves our honor, our respect, and our worship. May we honor him in our lives!


By Paul Simrell

The Reverend Paul W. Simrell has served for over thirty years in a variety of congregational and institutional settings. He is a recognized minister with standing in the Virginia region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and is nationally endorsed by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for specialized ministry in both pastoral counseling and chaplaincy. Ordained in 1982, he has served congregations in Kentucky, Texas, Florida, and Virginia. He currently serves as the pastor of Elpis Christian Church, a small, historic congregation located just a few miles west of Richmond, Virginia. Elpis is the Greek word meaning “expectant hope.” He also serves on the associate clinical staff of the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care, Richmond, Virginia, both as a pastoral counselor and a ministerial assessment specialist, specializing in executive, clergy and relationship coaching. He is a graduate of the University of Florida and Lexington Theological Seminary and has done advanced clinical training in chaplaincy and pastoral counseling at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, Children’s Medical Center and Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas and the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care in Richmond, Virginia. He is a Certified Pastoral Counselor, an ACPE Practitioner, and a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. He is a Certified Facilitator of the Prepare-Enrich relationship assessment and skills-building program and served as a volunteer chaplain for over twenty years with the CJW Medical Center campuses in Richmond, Virginia. His avocational interests include playing the piano and drawing. He is very happily married to his wife Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell, a free-lance writer, who is also a Certified Facilitator for the Prepare-Enrich program. Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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