"Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity" (Ecclesiastes 1:2 ESV).
I found myself last night enjoying one of the best concerts in my life, The Avett Brothers at the Embassy in Fort Wayne. Passion. Love. Enjoyment. It was wonderful. They seemed to just lay it all out during that performance, unleashing their souls onto the crowd.
Then I had one of those moments. Maybe it was due to one of the introspective songs. I don't really know. Maybe it was because we were enjoying ourselves in a building where everyone that invested their lives in building it has passed from this life. But that sense of meaningless wanted to slither into my life and ruin my experience in the present. This is all vanity.
This is all meaningless. All of you here today - everyone in this crowd - will be gone tomorrow. In one hundred years, the joy that is felt here will have disappeared. Like it never happened. Or that is what the lie told me. That is what the voice trying to suck the joy out of my life said.
The word "vanity" is actually a "mist," "vapor," or a "mere breath." It is here for a moment and passes away. It is alluring in our moments of depression or sadness to fall prey to the wayward writings of the author of Ecclesiastes. They are very poetic, touching, and beautiful as words, yet they are destructive in action. These thoughts of vanity suck the joy out of our lives. When we read Ecclesiastes, we are reading the thoughts of a wounded soul who wasted his life. Either he, or someone else writing commentary on the book, got the point of life right and wrote it at the end of the book.
"The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 ESV).
Think of the whole process of learning the inspired truth from Ecclesiastes like getting the point from a movie, a really depressing movie with a great lifechanging point. A point that would be missed if you turned the movie off in the midst of all the pain and suffering. You see the misery that the wrong life brings. You see the pointlessness of all the wasted and misplaced effort. Or think of it as hearing a testimony. When I share my testimony, I share a lot of wrong thoughts I had. I share a lot of stupid actions. In elaborating on the life that comes from living life from a place of bad beliefs, we see the meaningless of it all. Ecclesiastes isn't in the Bible to teach us that life is meaningless. It's there to teach us that meaning can only be found in living for God.
Because life isn't meaningless. Even in the little things, amazingness can happen. An awesome concert, enjoying the blessings of God's good yet fallen earth with our fellow man isn't meaningless. A wonderful mix of music, vitality, God, my loved one, and my own thoughts stirred my soul. Changing me. Transforming me into someone better if I would only allow them to. Now, if we don't allow it to transform us, then the writer of Ecclesiastes is right: it is all meaningless. But life in God isn't meaningless.
To say the life that God has given us to bring about His will is meaningless is a slap to the meaning and purpose that God has given us. Loving our neighbors. Helping the hurting. Bringing hope to the hopeless. Sharing the eternal truths of God in a loving way. None of it is meaningless.
It's true. I won't be here in one hundred years. Everyone in that concert hall will be dead. None of us reading this article soon after its writing will be alive in that time. And this article will, more than likely, be lost amongst the mist of the massive amounts of writing that is being printed during our times. One more article to join the wasteland of history.
But this article, like all experiences, is not meaningless if it changes us. When we are faithful to God, He takes our relatively futile actions, shapes them together with everyone else's seemingly futile actions, and creates something beautiful. In Him, there is never meaninglessness. We must rise out of the mist into the new day.
An even better song to exemplify this thought. It was released about a half a year after this article was written. I can't embed it since it's not on Youtube, so just click this link.