I once heard someone say, “Peace is faith resting: joy is faith dancing!” Peace and joy go together. Is there joy in the book of Ecclesiastes? I must admit, when I first read it I thought it was all fatalistic material, all doom and gloom. Well there is plenty of that, but oh, the joy I found in all sorts of unexpected places.
First I saw that the Teacher talks about finding joy in the ordinary things of life. “Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him – for this is his lot” (Eccl. 5:18). There is nothing quite so ordinary as food and drink and a job! They are meant to provide us satisfaction, yet they seem to be the things most grumbled about. The secret is right here in the next verse: “Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work – this is a gift of God” (Eccl. 5:19). Do you see it? These ordinary things are gifts from the Provider, and the joy we can find in them is also a gift! It is God who enables us to enjoy our gifts. The enjoyment of all these things is a gift in itself!
The person who asks God to give him or her the ability to accept their lot and enjoy the simple things in life doesn’t worry about the past because it is forgiven. They need not worry about the present because it is carried by a God with broad shoulders, and the future is in His hands as well! In fact, “He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart” (Eccl. 5:20). In other words, it’s useless to brood over food or drink or jobs – or how long we might live. Better to find the joy in the ordinary, and go through life with a song in your heart. It’s a choice!
So what is occupying your heart and mind right now? Are you content with your lot, or always comparing your lot in life with that of others? Are you forever worrying about what you will eat, drink, or wear? Do you know it is possible to be occupied instead with “gladness of heart”? As the Message puts it, “Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work. It’s God’s gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now” (Eccl. 5:19-20). The gift of gladness of heart is wrapped up with the gift of God in Christ. Jesus is joy – joy is Jesus, and with the gift of the Son, life “under the sun” becomes a whole new thing!
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