Can you remember a time when you were genuinely joyful? For me, it was on the Island of Mauritius. My husband and I had to go there for work, but we could take the children with us. On this specific day, we decided to go quad biking. It was so much fun. It was a rainy day; the gravel road was very muddy. I was sitting in the driver's seat, with my daughter Tsakani behind me, holding on for dear life. I can still remember the feel of the buggy between my legs, the sound of the engine roaring in my ears and my daughter's arms clinging around my waist. The gravel road was bumpy and uneven, and mud splashed onto my legs because I was going way too fast. My husband and son were on the bike behind us, and I could hear their laughter as they tried to keep up with us. I looked up to the grey skies and the lush green trees; I listened to the roar of the engines, the sound of my family's laughter in my ears, and at that moment, my life was perfect. I was happy, and I never wanted that moment to end.
Did you know that happiness and joy is a gift from God? God actually wants us to be happy. Ecclesiastes 3:12 -13 says
There is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all their toil- this is a gift from God.
God want us to be happy and enjoy our lives. That is why he created this beautiful world for us to live in. We also see this in the way he made us. We can experience an exquisite meal, enjoy a beautiful sunset, and cuddle up with a soft puppy. God made our brains to share love and connection, which should add to a very joyful life. But, this is not always the case. Things got a bit messed up. Sin came into the world, and consistent joy is the exception rather than the rule for most of us. This is because life happens, and sometimes it is just difficult to be happy. The book of Ecclesiastes explores this problem.
What does it take to experience happiness in life? So the teacher set out on a mission to find this happiness, and he looked for it in all the usual places.
He tried wisdom and knowledge as a source of happiness(1:13). He tried to learn as much as possible, but he found that it was meaningless after all his efforts.
Then he tried pleasure, laughter, wine and women, but that too was useless (2:8-11)
He also tried to find his happiness in his work, he built homes and planted vineyard and took on many projects, but this too was like chasing after the wind (2:4)
He looked to wealth for happiness (2:8), but the more wealth he had, the more trouble. He was always afraid of losing it, people were always trying to get it from him, and he never felt satisfied. He always wanted more.
So, the writer concludes: 'Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless. He found it all meaningless and uninteresting, unsatisfying and burdensome. All the usual ways of seeking happiness were like chasing after the wind.
But don't despair. The writer does give us some directions on how to live in the Joy God provided for us :
We have to make peace with the seasons of life. In verses 3:1-8, He says there is a time for everything. This is just the way things are. In Hebrew speech, opposites represent totality. When opposites are expressed together, they are representatives of all activities of life. A time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant and uproot. A time to weep and a time to cry. A time to love and a time to hate. These are the natural rhythms of life. God has created our lives to move forward. There is rhythm and order, but it can also be unpredictable. Hardship and difficulty are part of this life. Sometimes we suffer even more because we ask the wrong questions. We get stuck and cannot move forward towards joy. Ecclesiastes says God made everything beautiful in his time. Good questions include: How can I navigate this current season in the best way possible? Who can I learn and grow from this season? I wonder how God will use this difficulty to bless others?
God made everything beautiful in his time. It might not seem like it now, but God is making something beautiful out of your life if you choose to trust him. If you pay close attention, you will see all the places where God's grace was evident. Where in your life can you see the grace and the faithfulness of God? Who are the people he brought to come alongside and help support and encourage you? God is always near and willing to save you.
God has placed eternity in our hearts, yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. He has made us with a deep-seated inborn awareness of himself, his greatness and his work in this world. But our knowledge is limited because there are things about God that we will never understand. All we have to do is trust him.
Know that What God does endures forever (V14). The work of God flows out of his character, his faithfulness and his loving-kindness. Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
The secret to a life of joy is to continue to trust in the goodness and faithfulness of God. I think this is the conclusion of the teacher in Ecclesiastes. In 2:24, the teacher asks the question, "Who can eat and find enjoyment without God?" It simply means that apart from the God who loves us, we cannot have true joy.
How are you experiencing the joy of the Lord right now? What are you learning from the current season you are weathering?