Have you ever struggled to know what your purpose in life is?
For me personally, I wrestled with this question around the time of high school graduation. As my friends went on to pursue degrees in what they felt passionate about, I had no idea what I wanted to do. And even though I was heading to Community College, I still felt stuck. Living in a world that says your purpose can be found in what you do, I wondered if I would ever feel a sense of purpose if I could not decide what field to pursue.
It took time for me to learn that no matter what the world says, purpose is not found in what I do. While there is nothing wrong with having joy or a sense of fulfillment in our roles, relationships, or jobs, true meaning and purpose are given to us through Christ. Through Christ’s grace and forgiveness, we are brought into a relationship with the One who created us. With a new heart and the Holy Spirit within us, we understand that our life’s purpose is to glorify God and make His name known. And in light of Christ’s salvation, we are excited to live out that purpose through obedience, worship, and daily dependence.
Even though we may believe that our purpose is found in Christ, the lies of this world that tell us that meaning and purpose can be found elsewhere can be weighty. This is why we are excited about our newest study, Path to Purpose: A Study on the Book of Ecclesiastes. Through this study, we see how pursuing the things of this world will not leave us ultimately fulfilled and satisfied. It is only by following the Lord and fearing Him that our lives can have true meaning and purpose.
Sneak Peek of Our New Path to Purpose: A Study on the Book of Ecclesiastes Everything is Futile
Some books open with a cheery mood, with the sun shining bright, the birds chirping, and an upbeat song playing in the background. Ecclesiastes does not begin this way. Instead of a joyful opening, Solomon opens with these jarring words: "Absolute futility. Everything is futile" (Ecclesiastes 1:2). These opening words may tempt us to close the book and pick up something more encouraging. But this phrase from Solomon is an important message to grasp before the book continues. Everything in this world is futile, which points us to how there is something more to this life that the world cannot bring us.
The word "futile" communicates something that is “pointless or meaningless.” However, the word "futile" in Hebrew is heḇel, which translates as "vapor" or "breath." Solomon likely uses this word to teach from the very beginning of this book how the things of this world are like a vapor. You can see a vapor of smoke or one's breath in chilly air, but you cannot grasp the air. In comparison, the things of this world seem tangible, but when you grasp onto them, you will find
that you cannot hold onto them. From the start, Solomon reveals the empty pursuit of worldly loves. Everything we seek to acquire in this life—beauty, fame, fortune—will fail us and fade away.
Solomon continues by briefly presenting one of his major themes of Ecclesiastes in verse 3 —the futility of labor. He asks the question, "What does a person gain for all his efforts
that he labors at under the sun?" At first glance, we may find Solomon's question strange. Our labor does produce something, whether it be money in the bank account or a product we have produced. Yet, Solomon seems to say we do not gain or profit from our labor. Why?
The phrase "under the sun" sheds some light on an answer. The phrase "under the sun" is a phrase Solomon utilizes multiple times throughout Ecclesiastes. This phrase communicates an earthly perspective—that one is gathering such an opinion about the futility of labor by looking at what they observe in the world alone. Labor is, in fact, futile if there is nothing beyond this world. If this life is all there is, nothing we produce has any lasting value or impact.
To further communicate this truth, Solomon describes the rhythms of nature in verses 4–7. He explains how generations are born and eventually die, but the earth remains. He describes the sun as a hurried runner who works hard to rise and circle around, but eventually, it returns to where it began. The wind also seems like it does much as it gusts all around the earth, but it also returns back to its designed cycle. The streams that flow into the sea may seem like their waters contribute much, but even with the stream's flow, the sea is never full.
Solomon continues to describe the futility of this world in verse 8 by saying how our words, eyes, and ears are never satisfied. In verses 9–10, Solomon reveals how there is nothing new under the sun. There is not anything we can point to and say that it is new. Every new advancement or product contains some element that has always existed. What we consider new falls into the cycle of futility, for even what is new eventually fades and is replaced by something else. Lastly, Solomon says in verse 11 that there is no remembrance of one's life. Even those who have been remembered for something they have done in the past will soon fade from memory.
Solomon's words in this passage reveal the reality of our lives. We, too, are caught in a seemingly endless rhythm. We only need to look at our daily lives to see how this is true. We all get up and have a morning ritual that involves brushing our teeth or drinking coffee. Then we set off to do what the day requires as we go to work, take the kids to school, or begin to clean our home. Eventually, time goes on, and we finish our day. Climbing back into the bed, we will rise tomorrow to repeat the same rhythm. Even if we feel like we have achieved something in this routine, life always seems to reset itself. We finish our work one day but have to start more work the next. The pile of laundry has been washed, dried, and put away, but soon the basket will fill again. The refrigerator may be stocked for now, but soon the food will dwindle, and another grocery run will ensue.
Realizing life's seemingly mundane and meaningless nature may prompt us to throw up our hands in frustration. “What is the point?” we might ask. But this is the question Solomon has asked himself before and what he wants his readers to ask as well. While others may choose to ignore the reality of this life, coming to terms with this reality sets us on the right path of discovery. The seeming meaninglessness of life points us to the truth that only Jesus gives our lives true meaning. The desire for there to be something more to this life is fulfilled in Christ alone.
As humans, we were created to fulfill one purpose: to love and worship God. Sin causes this purpose to be disrupted and diluted. But through the grace and forgiveness of Jesus, our eyes are opened back to our true purpose. Because of Jesus, we can participate in the cycles of this life with joy rather than despair. We can complete the seemingly mundane with delight, knowing that the work of our hands gives God glory. We can look ahead with hope because of our future of eternity with Christ. There is more to this life, for true and lasting life is found in Jesus Christ.
If you enjoyed the above excerpt from our new Path to Purpose: A Study on the Book of Ecclesiastes, we encourage you to purchase this study to learn about and experience the meaning and satisfaction that is found in Christ alone.