part 22 – life is short, pray hard (Ecc 11:7-12:8)
How do you know when you’re getting older?
Everything hurts and what doesn’t hurt, doesn’t work.
Getting lucky means you find your car in the parking lot.
The gleam in your eyes is from the sun hitting your bifocals.
Your knees buckle and your belt won’t.
Those issues of Reader’s Digest just can’t come fast enough.
You hear your favorite song on the elevator at work.
You give up all your bad habits and you still don’t feel good.
You actually want socks for Christmas.
You and your teeth don’t sleep together.
The little gray-haired lady you help across the street is your wife.
There’s nothing left to learn the hard way.
Your little black book contains only names ending in M.D.
Open your Bibles to Ecc 11. The Teacher has in numerous passages reminded us that death is the end for everyone, rich or poor, wise or foolish, righteous or wicked, everybody is destined for the grave. In this way he has encouraged us to live with the end in view.
Now today, he takes a step back from the grave and reminds us of that season of life just prior to the grave.
Jean told me of how Ellie asked her why she was old. Jean’s response was awesome! She said, “Because God has let me live for a long time.”
If God grants the privilege of living a long life and attaining to old age, you will be able to survey the timeline of your life and recall the trajectory of your years.
You will look back on that lifespan and recall that there were things you could do in your youth that you could not do in old age (most of them physical). At the same time, there are things you can do in old age, that you could not do in your youth (most of them mental & emotional) you have wisdom and experience that if you had in your teens, may have saved you from foolish decisions, regrets, even heartbreak.
Every stage of life has its perks, its own benefits, and value. And just before his conclusion, the teacher makes one last point, that we should enjoy every stage in life.
This passage encourages the enjoyment of youth, but also gives some advice on how to best use that time in one’s youth to age with grace and dignity, how to lay a foundation that will set the course of your life on a path for ultimate enjoyment and satisfaction.
7 Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.
To see the sun is to experience the sweetness of life, which is the gift of God. I believe that the next verse, verse 8, is the main point, the theme of our entire passage.
8 However many years anyone may live,
let them enjoy them all.
But let them remember the days of darkness,
for there will be many.
Everything to come is [hebel].
However many years a person may live, let them enjoy them all. Don’t enjoy only your youth, dreading old age and being miserable from your thirties onward. Don’t be miserable during your prime, saying, well, I guess I will just have wait to enjoy life when I reach retirement, because you may not live till retirement, and if God does allow you to, then what fraction of your life is left after retirement? Don’t enjoy only a slice of your life, enjoy the whole pie.
However many years you live, enjoy them all. There are pros and cons to every stage in life. The key to enjoying every stage of life is to recognize the pros and enjoy them while you have them.
9 You who are young, be happy while you are young,
and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Enjoy your youth.
I can tell you that at my age (in my mid-thirties) there are things that I can’t do anymore. I played baseball in my youth all through highschool. As a kid, I’d throw the ball a few times and I was good to go. Now, I have to throw the ball very gently and work my way to throwing hard. It takes like twenty minutes now.
And don’t even get me started on running & stretching. In my youth, I didn’t even really have to stretch before a game. Guess how many times I pulled a muscle. Zero. Now, I have to run and stretch for nearly an hour. And this doesn’t eliminate the possibility of a pulled muscle, it simply minimizes the probability.
At work, the EH&S people make us watch these safety videos even the office personnel – it’s mandatory. So, I figure that I may as well pay attention and learn something from them because after all, though I may not do any heavy lifting at work, I do at home, here at church, and elsewhere. So I’m pretty much an expert now on ergonomics. Bre’s tired of hearing keep your back straight, lift with your legs, keep the item close to your body. I’m like the ergonomics nazi, you know why? I don’t like pulled muscles and pinched nerves. But as ergonomically aware as I am and as much as I follow the rules, I still tweak my back, pinch a nerve, pull a muscle. In my youth, I didn’t know what ergonomics was and I didn’t care. That kind of stuff never happened to me. As careless as I could be and never hurt myself lifting or moving anything.
And it’s only getting worse every year. There are certain things that we could do in our youth that we can no longer do. There were rules that we could bypass and not get hurt. As we get older, we follow the rules and still might get hurt because our body just isn’t the same.
So, the teacher encourages, enjoy it while you have it. Enjoy being in the prime of life and take advantage of it because you won’t have it forever.
But he also inserts a little guard rail to make sure that the audience doesn’t read this as a license for living in sin. He says
Follow the ways of your heart
and whatever your eyes see,
but know that for all these things
God will bring you into judgment.
Enjoy your youth, but don’t attempt to enjoy it by living in sin. That will lead to a broken relationship with your heavenly Father, broken relationships with others, regrets, pain, shame, and frustration, not ultimate joy.
This last phrase: 10 So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are [hebel]. I think that what he is saying here is enjoy the youth, the vigor, the prime of life while you have it, but in light of God and His will, His judgment, avoid following those youthful desires that will lead to anxiety and trouble. Youth and vigor are a mist. In the short time of one’s youth, he has the ability to make foolish decisions that will lead to a lifetime of anxiety and trouble. In light of the brevity of youth, don’t go there.
Enjoy your youth and take advantage of the freedoms you have in your youth, but not to the neglect of God and not to the neglect of your own well being.
FREEDOMS AT EVERY STAGE
In your youth you have certain freedoms you don’t fully realize till you’re older. I remember being a kid and thinking, “I’m bored.” I had a room full of toys, a nintendo, a gameboy, a tv, a vcr, a stereo, cassettes, a bicycle, skates, all kinds of things to do and…I’m bored. But now, as an adult, I’m never bored because I have responsibilities. As a child I had minimal responsibilities. Do my homework, clean my room, take the trash out. Done. I didn’t have to go to work, pay bills, provide for a family, I didn’t have the weight and responsibility of five people’s well being, health, maturity, social sensibility, emotion, education, etc. I didn’t realize it then, but I was free. And I didn’t enjoy that freedom when I had it.
I just wished I was older so I could drive. I wished I was older so that I could be an adult because adults get to do what they want to do. Adults are free.
So if you’re young and you’re bored, enjoy it. There will come a day when you wish you were young and bored again. You will look back on these days and wish you had enjoyed this time and soaked it up. Before you know it you will have a car and a job and bills, and you will miss the boring days of your youth.
At every stage in life, in youth in adulthood, in old age, we always have a certain degree of freedom and we are always able to do what we want to do from a certain perspective, but there are also limitations on our freedom.
As a child, we are free to get on our bike and go for a ride without the weight of the responsibility of a family. But we have a limit, allowed to go as far as our parents would let us and we have to come home at a time they set. Limitation of parents’ rules.
As an adult we have the freedom to go to bed when we want, but we have our own limitations there. Limitations of family and work.
When we get older and reach retirement, we’ll be free to do what we want and go where we want without the limitations of family and work tying us down, but then we have our limitations there. As I already mentioned, there’s the limitations of our bodies that won’t let us do everything we used to and may still wish we could do.
The teacher encourages the enjoyment of life at all stages. No matter how many years a person may live, let him enjoy them all.
Enjoying life at every stage is in large part a matter of perspective. So at every stage in life, there are freedoms and there are limitations. Will you choose to focus on your limitations or your freedoms? By focusing on our limitations, we rarely enjoy our freedoms.
Young people, you will have a hard time enjoying this stage of life if you’re simply looking at life in terms of all of your limitations.
I can’t drive.
I have a curfew.
I have to do what my parents tell me.
But you will have a much better chance of enjoying your youth if you see life in terms of your freedoms.
I’m only responsible for me right now.
I’m free from the weight of responsibilities that adults have.
I also have freedom in terms of vigor; I can swim, and jump, and run, and kneel and squat – and my body doesn’t hurt. Don’t take that for granted, but enjoy it while it lasts.
Older people, you will have a hard time enjoying this stage of life if you’re simply looking at life in terms of all of your limitations.
I can’t do what I used to do.
Can’t eat what I used to eat.
But you will have a much better chance of enjoying your youth if you see life in terms of your freedoms.
I’ve raised my kids.
I’ve worked hard, saved for retirement, and I’m free to go where I want and do what I want.
I have the freedom to enjoy waking up when I want and drinking coffee on the porch and listening to the birds chirp and
going to HEB when nobody is there.
Every stage in life has its own sense of beauty, benefits, and freedoms.
Don’t waste a precious moment wishing you were younger or older.
However many years a person may live let him enjoy them all.
I came across this list someone posted on Facebook, which originated on Buzzfeed.com
(I omitted some of them)
37 things you’ll regret when you’re old:
1. Not traveling when you had the chance.
Traveling becomes infinitely harder the older you get, especially if you have a family and need to pay the way for three-plus people instead of just yourself.
2 not learning another language
You’ll kick yourself when you realize you took three years of language in high school and remember none of it
3. Staying in a bad relationship.
If you choose to stay in an unhappy relationship, you choose to stay unhappy.
No one who ever gets out of a bad relationship looks back without wishing they made the move sooner.
5. Missing the chance to see your favorite musicians.
“Nah, dude, I’ll catch Nirvana next time they come through town.” Facepalm.
10. Not trying harder in school.
It’s not just that your grades play a role in determining where you end up in life. Eventually you’ll realize how neat it was to get to spend all day learning, and wish you’d paid more attention.
13. Not listening to your parents’ advice.
You don’t want to hear it when you’re young, but the infuriating truth is that most of what your parents say about life is true.
14. Spending your youth self-absorbed.
You’ll be embarrassed about it, frankly.
15. Caring too much about what other people think.
In 20 years you won’t give a damn about any of those people you once worried so much about.
18. Holding grudges, especially with those you love.
“Holding a grudge is like letting someone live rent-free in your head”
What’s the point of re-living the anger over and over?
20. Not volunteering enough.
OK, so you probably won’t regret not volunteering Hunger Games style, but nearing the end of one’s life without having helped to make the world a better place is a great source of sadness for many.
22. Missing the chance to ask your grandparents questions before they die.
Most of us realize too late what an awesome resource grandparents are. They can explain everything you’ll ever wonder about where you came from, but only if you ask them in time.
23. Working too much.
No one looks back from their deathbed and wishes they spent more time at the office, but they do wish they spent more time with family, friends, and hobbies.
25. Not stopping enough to appreciate the moment.
Young people are constantly on the go, but stopping to take it all in now and again is a good thing.
30. Not playing with your kids enough.
When you’re old, you’ll realize your kid went from wanting to play with you to wanting you out of their room in the blink of an eye.
32. Not taking the time to develop contacts and network.
Networking may seem like a bunch of crap when you’re young, but later on it becomes clear that it’s how so many jobs are won.
33. Worrying too much.
As Tom Petty sang, “Most things I worry about never happen anyway.”
34. Getting caught up in needless drama.
Who needs it?
35. Not spending enough time with loved ones.
Our time with our loved ones is finite. Make it count.
37. Not being grateful sooner.
It can be hard to see in the beginning, but eventually it becomes clear that every moment on this earth — from the mundane to the amazing — is a gift that we’re all so incredibly lucky to share.
(sounds like the author of this feed read Ecclesiastes)
I think that the Teacher would add his own and put it at the top of the list: Not getting to know God sooner.
We see this as we move into chapter 12, where the main theme is “remember your Creator.” The point is: the earlier you get to know God, the better. He begins in verse 1, saying:
12 Remember your Creator
in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
and the years approach when you will say,
“I find no pleasure in them”—
He encourages his audience to enjoy life and part of the enjoyment of life is remembering God. Now in our culture, we tend to use the term remember to mean to call something to our mind, to have a recollection, simply an inward act of the mind. The Hebrew culture saw remembering something as not only an inward act of the mind, but including an outward corresponding action. In this sense you haven’t remembered until you have acted upon it.
We see this throughout the scriptures. God remembered Noah and caused the flood waters to reside. God remembered Abraham and brought Lot out of Sodom safely. God remembers and acts. He doesn’t just think, but acts.
So the Teacher is encouraging his readers to remember God and live accordingly.
Now why would he encourage this? Because people tend to get self-absorbed as if life is about us. If we aren’t reminded to remember God, we may go days without prayer, praise, and worship. Life is bigger than us. It’s note about us; it’s about God.
I can tell you that my personal experience has been that the more I remember God, think about him and live in a way that reflects Him, the more satisfied I am, the more I truly enjoy life under the sun. I didn’t know God until I was almost 20. From that moment I felt as if I wasted twenty years of my life. I wasted all that time focused on me me me, trying to find satisfaction in all of the hebel that the Teacher has pointed out throughout this book, when ultimate enjoyment, ultimate satisfaction for the soul is found in God.
So remember God in the days of your youth. And he issues a series of before statements. And all of these before statements are essentially saying the same thing. They are a series of metaphors that really mean remember God, think about God ponder Him, get to know him and live life accordingly before you get old. Don’t waste your youth but take advantage of the fact that you can know God in your youth.
Kids are like sponges. They can soak up information way better than we as adults can. Their minds are sharp as a tack. The older we get the harder it is to learn new things. There’s that phrase, can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I’ve encountered people who only speak Spanish. They have 6 year old children who speak Spanish and English. They have been here in the US for the same 6 years that their children have, but in those 6 years, their children have learned not only the native tongue of their parents but English as well. It’s amazing what children absorb. It seems their capacity for learning is so much greater than that of an adult.
That’s why proverbs…
Prov 22:6 Train a child in the way he ought to go and when he is old he will not depart from it.
This verse impresses the importance of having a strong foundation in God, the Creator and the wisdom that begins in the fear of Him.
So the teacher is saying get to know God while you are young. Remember your creator in your youth and it will make for such an enjoyable, blessed, wonderful life in adulthood and into old age. Get to know God before you age and look back on your life and say it could have been so much richer had I remembered God.
Remember your creator:
2 before the sun and the light
and the moon and the stars grow dark,
and the clouds return after the rain;
3 when the keepers of the house tremble,
and the strong men stoop,
when the grinders cease because they are few,
and those looking through the windows grow dim;
4 when the doors to the street are closed
and the sound of grinding fades;
when people rise up at the sound of birds,
but all their songs grow faint;
5 when people are afraid of heights
and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms
and the grasshopper drags itself along
and desire no longer is stirred.
Then people go to their eternal home
and mourners go about the streets.
Again, all just to say, get to know God before you get old.
6 Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
and the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
and the wheel broken at the well,
7 and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
8 “Hebel! Hebel!” says the Teacher.
“Everything is hebel!” (Vanity, futility, it’s a vapor)
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. You don’t have to wait until you’re older and more experienced to attain to wisdom. You can begin that journey in your youth, because that journey begins with the fear of the LORD. Remember your creator in your youth before the sun and the moon and the stars grow dark.
The earlier you get to know God, the better. For a truly blessed, satisfied, and joyous life is a life in relationship with God.