Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Ecclesiastes: Does Anything Really Matter? Day 13, Solomon Is In A Morbid Mood

Solomon has been wishing he'd never been born. He says that would be better than searching for meaning in life and not being able to find it. Today his mood turns quite morbid.

"A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth." (Ecclesiastes 7:1) The first half of verse 1 sounds like a proverb, similar to one Solomon would later write in the book of Proverbs, "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold." (Proverbs 22:1) There is a vast difference between the second halves of these two verses. The verse from Ecclesiastes is written by a man who has been disappointed and disillusioned by everything the world has to offer. He has the wealth to obtain anything his heart desires but his heart is empty. In contrast, the verse from Proverbs is very good advice for all of us. It's written by a man who has learned that the most important legacy anyone can leave behind is his godly reputation, not his wealth.

Verse 1 takes an unexpected turn when Solomon declares the day of death is better than the day of birth. It goes against the practices of most cultures. We celebrate the day of birth and rejoice that a child has been born. We mourn the day of death. Whether the deceased person lived a hundred days or a hundred years, the day of death is a day of grieving for us.

Have you ever been so depressed that you felt the way Solomon feels in today's passage? I remember one time being so down and out that when I took new silk flower arrangements to the graves of my parents I looked around the cemetery and felt almost envious of those whose troubles were all behind them. That's a serious symptom of clinical depression. I wasn't suicidal but I was weary of my pervasive sadness and of struggling with it. This is the condition in which we find Solomon. He isn't planning to kill himself but he envies those who are already finished with their struggles in this world.

In Solomon's case he's come to this crisis point because he's tried to find happiness in everything except God. But I want to take a moment to say that a person who is living very close to the Lord can still be prone to depression for various reasons, whether they are genetic or situational. I've observed a tendency of some Christians (not all, thank goodness) to harshly judge those who are depressed, as if no one who knows the Lord ever has any reason to be depressed in this fallen world. A number of Bible characters were severely depressed at times, people who definitely knew the Lord. Some became discouraged because their ministries were difficult and produced little repentance among the people, such as was the case with the prophet Jeremiah. Some were down and out for a while because they endured unfair circumstances, like David during the fifteen years his life was threatened by the wicked King Saul. Others, like Job, were so grief-stricken they wished the Lord would just take them on out of the world. Still others, like the prophet Elijah, came to a breaking point out of sheer physical and emotional exhaustion. And then we find the Lord Jesus, who lived closer to God the Father than anyone, in such distress He felt near the point of death as He faced the agony of the cross and the heavy burden of bearing our sins for us. When our brothers and sisters in Christ fall into depression, God forbid we have a judgmental attitude toward them! They are a part of the body of Christ, and as the Apostle Paul said, "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it." (1 Corinthians 12:25a) We are to encourage and help our brother or sister who is struggling with depression or grief, as Christ would. And by all means, if anyone receives a diagnosis from a reputable physician and needs to take a prescription medication to deal with their depression or anxiety, let's be supportive of such a decision made on the advice of a medical professional. I wouldn't advise someone to reject medication for depression anymore than I would advise them to reject medication for a heart condition. It could make the difference between a person getting better or taking their own life.

Solomon goes on to say, "It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart." (Ecclesiastes 7:2) He says, "We're all going to die anyway, we might as well resign ourselves to this fact. Why try to enjoy anything? Let's just be mournful every day in preparation for death." He's in the kind of mood we probably all experience at one time or another, the kind of mood where we refuse to even think about being cheered up. He's made up his mind to be mournful and morbid and nobody is going to stop him until he's ready to stop.

"Frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure. It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person than to listen to the song of fools. Like the crackling of thorns under the pot, so is the laughter of fools. This too is meaningless." (Ecclesiastes 7:3-6) In our study this week we've been picturing Solomon throwing lavish parties at the palace but taking no enjoyment in them. He's talked about how many so-called friends a person will have if he is wealthy, friends who love to come by and drink your wine and eat your food and dance to your music. He observes how these fools (in the Bible this means a person who is morally and spiritually corrupt) are able to enjoy the shallow things of this world. Today he says, "Better to be wise and realize we are all destined for the grave than to party around the clock in an attempt to ignore the fact that no one lives forever. You can't put off the inevitable! No matter how wealthy a man is, no matter how much food and drink he consumes, no matter how many women he has relationships with, no matter how many children he fathers, he is still going to die. These fools are laughing as loudly as they can and chattering as much as they can in an attempt to pretend life isn't temporary. The sound they make has no more meaning than the sound kindling makes as it catches fire. And they are as temporary as the kindling that burns up. It serves its purpose and is gone."

Aren't we glad to know Solomon won't be in this mood forever? I don't know what you might be going through today or how depressed you might feel, but please don't assume you will feel this way forever. We can't judge our tomorrows by how we feel right now. Satan would love it if we concluded, "I might as well end it all. I'm never going to feel any better." We serve a God for whom nothing is impossible, a God whose vocabulary doesn't include the word "never" when it comes to the helping and healing of His children. Don't fall for the devil's words; he's a liar. Instead encourage yourself with the beautiful promises our God makes to His children. He is a God who never says never. Hold onto Him and His words as tightly as you can. A change in your situation may already be on its way.

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