I will also admit that some chapters and verses have me skipping over them; measurements of the temples, family trees, and sometimes Song of Songs are too descriptive for my 6am timeslot!
I find it thought-provoking that these two words often go together - growth, and pain. For me, a very comforting realisation has arisen. God's conviction comes from the Holy Spirit and it is sweet, making correction painful, yet exciting as it is moving me forward. The conviction of the enemy is not; instead it is often harsh and accusatory and pursues me with an empty, ashamed and guilty feeling. Often it leaves me feeling like I am moving 'backwards'.
King Solomon (attributed to writing most of the book of Ecclesiastes) is said to be the wisest man of all time. I questioned this claim. I wondered how you could know that a person will be the wisest ever. In 1 Kings 3:11-13 God said to Solomon in a dream, "I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be." God knew! I was quite taken aback with this recognition. There will never again be a man as wise as Solomon.
Ecclesiastes seems to become rather bleak in parts, though perhaps being David's son; Solomon had some writing traits of his emotional father. Ultimately I find the book very realistic and relevant. Through his wisdom, wealth and discernment he was not perfect. He was still a man. He still struggled with ideas, thoughts and life. His demise came through his wives and concubines. Explained briefly in 1 Kings 11:1, "But King Solomon loved many strange women…"
The readings have challenged me to look at the folly that can so easily arrive in our lives, and our ignorance and refusal to grow through it, and the major challenges that can be suddenly thrust upon us, and our response to those challenges.
A phone call, a pregnancy test, a person's words, a medical diagnosis; life can bring these moments, no matter who we are or what we believe.
Most of us travel through life thinking that these things won't happen to us. Unless we carry a 'negativistic' personality, we generally think it happens to others, but not to us. Where would our faith stand if it did hit? Are we unshakeable or unmoveable?
My shaking came in January 2000. At the age of 22, I was advised by the doctor that I was pregnant. Unplanned by me, totally planned by God. He is the God of life, the God of all creation. The direction of my life at the time included chaos, flippancy and a party-hard lifestyle. I hadn't included God in my life. I had omitted him and ignored His existence.
God knew this was going to happen and gently led my path. God isn't interested in naming our failings; He is interested in our journey toward Him. Many of the great kings failed. People, in their own strength, fail.
I kept trying to control my life; to become more important, more determined, more independent, a 'strong person'… but I kept crashing down on my knees. I was emotionally and mentally exhausted from trying to hold it all together. My strength wasn't enough and my life plan wasn't the best plan for me. Over recent years I have recognised God's strength and His plan for my life, as being perfect.
"Oh, how sweet the light of day, And how wonderful to live in the sunshine! Even if you live a long time, don't take a single day for granted. Take delight in each light-filled hour, Remembering that there will also be many dark days, And that most of what comes your way is smoke." Ecclesiastes 11:7 (THE MSG)
I can choose to see the moments of darkness as a huge mountain and obstacle, worthy of destroying me, or I can view it merely as smoke in my eyes. Through the smoke I can see God standing there, reminding me, He has it all under control.
I recall and remember His faithfulness over and over again, even when I was afraid, arrogant and unfaithful. Reading the Bible is a constant reminder of His faithfulness to humanity. His ultimate purpose is to bring people back into right relationship with Himself; the way He intended it to be.
Ecclesiastes 12:8 declares, "Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!"
And without God, I know it is.
Belinda Scotland is from the Sunshine Coast, QLD. She has a heart and passion for God, mission and social justice. Currently Belinda is the Manager of a Swim School and serving her local community.