What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? Ecclesiastes 2:22
If you want to live longer, take a vacation! Forty years after a study of middle-aged, male executives who each had a risk of heart disease, researchers in Helsinki, Finland, followed up with their study participants. The scientists discovered something they hadn’t been looking for in their original findings: the death rate was lower among those who had taken time off for vacations.
Work is a necessary part of life—a part God appointed to us even before our relationship with Him was fractured in Genesis 3. Solomon wrote of the seeming meaninglessness of work experienced by those not working for God’s honor—recognizing its “anxious striving” and “grief and pain” (Ecclesiastes 2:22–23). Even when they’re not actively working, he says their “minds do not rest” because they’re thinking about what still needs to be done (v. 23).
We too might at times feel like we’re “chasing after the wind” (v. 17) and grow frustrated by our inability to “finish” our work. But when we remember that God is part of our labor—our purpose—we can both work hard and take time to rest. We can trust Him to be our Provider, for He’s the giver of all things. Solomon acknowledges that “without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” (v. 25). Perhaps by reminding ourselves of that truth, we can work diligently for Him (Colossians 3:23) and also allow ourselves times of rest.
How can you invite God into your labors? How might you allow Him to be your satisfaction even when your work isn’t “finished”?
God, You bring meaning and purpose to all my labors.
Ecclesiastes, penned by the “Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem” (1:1, 12), seeks to answer life’s greatest mystery. How can one live a meaningful and purposeful life? Trapped between birth and death (3:2), he explores area after area of life, all that humanity can pursue—intellectual pursuits, knowledge, pleasures, happiness, accomplishments, material possessions, work (chs. 1–3)—to show that a life without God—life “under the sun”—is “meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (1:14). In chapter 2, he discusses human labor, concluding that work without God is pointless, joyless, worrisome, insufferable, miserable, and grievous (vv. 17–26).