In the 1997 Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii, two women fought to stay on their feet as they hobbled toward the finish line. Exhausted, the runners persevered on wobbly legs, until Sian Welch bumped into Wendy Ingraham. They both dropped to the ground. Struggling to stand, they stumbled forward, only to fall again about twenty meters from the finish line. When Ingraham began to crawl, the crowd applauded. When her competitor followed suit, they cheered louder. Ingraham crossed the finish line in fourth place, and she slumped into the outstretched arms of her supporters. Then she turned and reached out to her fallen sister. Welch lunged her body forward, stretching her weary arm toward Ingraham’s hand and across the finish line. As she completed the race in fifth place, the crowd roared their approval.
This pair’s completion of the 140-mile swimming, biking, and running race inspired many. But the image of the weary competitors persevering together remains ingrained in my mind, affirming the life-empowering truth in Ecclesiastes 4:9–11.
There’s no shame in admitting we require assistance in life (v. 9), especially since we can’t honestly deny our needs or hide them from our all-knowing God. At one time or another, we’ll all fall, whether physically or emotionally. Knowing we’re not alone can comfort us as we persevere. As our loving Father helps us, He empowers us to reach out to others in need, affirming they too aren’t alone.
All-powerful God, thank You for reassuring us of Your constant presence as You help us and give us opportunities to reach out and help others.
Along with Job, Psalms, Proverbs, and Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes is classified as one of the Wisdom books of Scripture. Wisdom books, which emphasize the supreme value of fearing God (Ecclesiastes 8:13; 12:13), help the reader to navigate the good and not-so-good—the bitter and sweet of this life—from God’s perspective and to trust Him. Given Wisdom literature’s goal—to help its readers to “live skillfully”—it shouldn’t surprise us to find numerous occurrences in the book of Ecclesiastes of the word better or the phrase better than. The comparative value of wisdom is stressed in passages such as “Wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness” (2:13); “Wisdom is better than strength” (9:16); “Wisdom is better than weapons of war” (9:18). We also see this emphasis in Proverbs: “For she [wisdom] is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold” (3:14).