Friday, May 5, 2017

Ecclesiastes: Does Anything Really Matter? Day 8, Solomon Wishes He'd Never Been Born

It's natural that Solomon, as a king, would be bothered by injustice. He may not be living as close to God as he should be, but he knows right from wrong and has been a good king and a wise judge. Today he speaks of the oppression he witnesses in the world. It depresses him so much he will say that the dead are better off than the living and that those who have never been born are better off than anyone.

"Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed---and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors---and they have no comforter." (Ecclesiastes 4:1) The way of the world is that the strong oppress the weak. The wealthy sometimes take advantage of the poor. Solomon wants to know, "Why does no one stand up for them? Who will comfort them?"

Comfort can be difficult to find in this world where the attitude so frequently is "every man for himself". Even if we have friends and family members who try their best to comfort us, sometimes our grief is too deep. Our sorrow is more than any human can fix. But we have a Comforter who is able to comfort us in ways no human being can, "I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mere mortals, human beings who are but grass, that you forget the Lord your Maker, who stretches out the heavens and who lays the foundations of the earth, that you live in constant terror every day because of the wrath of the oppressor, who is bent on destruction? For where is the wrath of the oppressor? The cowering prisoners will soon be set free; they will not die in their dungeon, nor will they lack bread. For I am the Lord your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar---the Lord Almighty is His name." (Isaiah 51:12-15) Amen! The Lord says, "Who is there to fear when I am on your side? I created the heavens and the earth and everything that is in them. I am more than able to comfort you in your troubles. You belong to Me and you have power because I have power. Do not fear."

Solomon is not yet at the point of being able to draw his comfort from the Lord. He is the wisest man on earth but he lacks spiritual maturity, so the oppression he sees in the world makes him feel like life isn't worth living. "And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive. But better than both is the one that has never been born, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 4:2-3) If you have ever struggled with depression, you are not alone. Several Bible characters struggled with it too, including a man as wise and wealthy and famous as King Solomon. He is so depressed he thinks the dead are better off than the living because all their worries are behind them. Even more than that, he thinks those who have never been born are the luckiest of all because they have never witnessed any troubles.

I hope you won't mind me mentioning some secular music, but ever since we started our study of Ecclesiastes I keep being reminded of Bohemian Rhapsody because the song says things like, "Nothing really matters," and "I don't wanna die; I sometimes wish I'd never been born at all". If King Solomon had ever written classic rock lyrics, he might have written something like Bohemian Rhapsody. He doesn't particularly want to die because he has doubts about the soul and what happens to it after death, but at the same time he can't find any joy in living, so he concludes he would have been better off if he'd never been born. He's going through a very serious bout of clinical depression and in his case it was brought on by falling away from the Lord. I don't want anyone to think I'm saying that's the cause of all depression. Even when we are living close to the Lord, some of us still have to deal with a genetic predisposition to chemical imbalances in the brain. Or we might be living smack dab in the middle of God's will and still have very sad circumstances come into our lives, like illness or the death of a loved one. But in Solomon's case his mental and spiritual crisis was brought on because his heart was empty of the Lord. His life was full of everything else. He could live in ease and pleasure every single day. He never had to worry about paying the bills or putting food on the table. He had the health and strength to be about the business of the kingdom and to oversee large construction projects. But none of these things satisfied him because his heart had a hole in it that only the presence of the Lord could fill.

I don't mind admitting to you that I've struggled with depression. I believe in keeping it real and telling the truth because concealing such things isn't going to help anyone. Some of my depression has been situational because of things like illness or death in the family or problems in my household. Some of it has been organic because, genetically speaking, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder and seasonal affective disorder run in my family. And some of it has been caused by not spending enough time in the presence of the Lord, the same thing that caused Solomon's depression. If nothing in particular appears to be going wrong in my life but I feel down and out anyway, it's usually because I've been so caught up with the busyness of daily living that I've neglected prayer or the word of God. Getting alone with the Lord for a little while is often enough to make me feel a whole lot better.

It's so easy to neglect God in this busy world. It's easy to put other things and other people ahead of Him. But we are only hurting ourselves when we do this. We have been created with an inbuilt desire to commune with our Maker and we won't be able to find true satisfaction in anything when we cut ourselves off from the power that makes life abundant and meaningful. In the passage we studied from Isaiah today the Lord reminds us, "I am He who comforts you. Why would you forget the Lord your Maker? I am the Lord your God. If you fear and reverence Me, you need not fear anyone else. I have the power to see you through anything that comes at you in this world."

We serve a God who has never been defeated by anything. When we feel defeated by our depression, we must turn to the One who conquers all things. Our Maker, the Lord our God, will fight for us when we can't fight for ourselves. Below is our worship song link for today. I hope it will be an encouragement to you.
Oh My Soul

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