Since I got back to school and started classes, I’ve had quite a bit of stress because of tests and deadlines. There have been several times where I’ve wondered, “What’s the point in doing this? Why am I stressing about this?” but I still let it get under my skin. All of this stress and wondering led me to think about the book of Ecclesiastes. It’s a great encouragement if you’re stressed about schoolwork or tests — it serves as a reminder that, while many endeavors are important on a worldly level, compared to eternity, they really don’t matter.
Throughout the book, there’s a theme of vanity. This vanity doesn’t come in the sense of being conceited or prideful, but of something being useless and futile. Ecclesiastes 1:2-3 says, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” In essence, he’s saying, “What am I getting out of all this work?” He goes throughout the book asking this question in a variety of ways, trying to find his purpose. He tries to find a purpose in gaining worldly wisdom, self-indulgence, toil, wealth, and honor. Yet, none of these things are satisfying enough –true contentment doesn’t come from any of these worldly values, and we certainly won’t find our true purpose in them.
So, where did he find true contentment? Where can we find true contentment? He came to the conclusion that we can find this only through serving God.
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. (ESV)
Not only can we find true contentment through serving God, but it is the whole duty of man to serve God — where we spend eternity depends on how we spend our lives while we’re here. We’re on this earth to serve Him and strive to be with Him eternally, and nothing we attain here is greater than what God has in store for us if we seek Him diligently.
But without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (NKJV)
He is not a rewarder of those who diligently seek the world and what it has to offer, but of those who diligently seek Him. Of course, this doesn’t mean to abandon the goals we may have in college or for our careers — we still need to work hard at whatever we set our minds to do (Colossians 3:23). But we cannot forget our God along the way. God should come first, everything else next.
Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them…” (ESV)
So how can this comfort us when we’re stressed about whatever deadline, assignment, test, or anything else we might have to think about? We can remember that this world is not our home, and whatever we’re doing here won’t matter in the long run. With God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). Our eternal salvation doesn’t depend on our grades or our jobs, but on setting our hearts on God and doing his commandments. If we put God first, He’ll help us through the struggles we have here.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Matthew 6:25-27, 36
Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not of much more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his life?
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the days is its own trouble.
Focus on eternity. Put God in the center, and everything else will fall into place.
Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide.
Be still, my soul; thy best, they heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.