Read and rejoice: Study this to prepare for finals

“God has done all that is impossible for us, all that creates meaning, and gives the results of that work to us. Free.”
(Photo by: Rod Long)
“God has done all that is impossible for us, all that creates meaning, and gives the results of that work to us. Free.” (Photo by: Rod Long)

Here’s just one more item to add your to-do list as you prepare for finals: Read Ecclesiastes. I think it would both discourage and encourage you, all in the best way possible. Let me explain.  

I’ll begin with the discouragement, since that’s how the author of Ecclesiastes chose to begin: “All is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:1) Or to translate into modern language: “Everything is useless.” From this thesis, the author begins a litany of supporting points. Money is useless: People who have it lose it when they need it most. (5:13-14) Pleasure is useless: You’re satisfied, and then you’re not. (2:10-11) Work is useless: You never get enough done to stop. (4:8) Religion is useless: Tragedy still happens to all people, good or bad. (9:2) Words are useless: The people who use them the most are fools. (5:3) Even wisdom is useless: The wise can’t escape eventual disaster any more than the fool can. (2:15) Finally, life itself is useless: we all die. (8:8) 

The picture that comes to mind is of rats on a treadmill — all of them running but none getting anywhere. And the irony? All the things listed here are good things, yet the author still describes them as useless.

Why? What makes something useless, and what would make it meaningful instead? The author refers to several criteria throughout the book. I will mention three. For life to be meaningful, work must get what it works for (Eccl. 1:8), broken things must be fixed (Eccl. 1:15) and all good things must last forever (Eccl. 3:19) 

How well does our world measure up to these criteria for meaning? Even in college — is the work ever completely done? Are broken things ever completely fixed? Does anything ever last forever? No.

This conclusion is discouraging. If everything is useless, then what is the point of doing anything? But here is where the encouragement comes in, and the encouragement is only stronger in the face of the discouragement. 

So far, we have looked at the world “under the sun.” We have listed (though very generally) everything and anything a person can do or pursue. But what about God? Where is He while we spend our lives “chasing after wind” (2:17) and coming up empty, time and time again? Solomon answers that question in chapter three verse 11: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. And he has put eternity in their hearts …” 

While we work, play, study, sweat, complain, rejoice, suffer, laugh and die, God is here. And He isn’t just watching us from above. He’s with us, doing a work we struggle to understand, yet meeting the criteria for meaning every step of the way. Will the work ever be done? God says, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) Will the broken ever be fixed? God says, “The crooked places shall be made straight.” (Isaiah 40:4) Will anything ever last forever? God says, “And they shall reign for ever and ever.” (Rev. 22:5)

Only once we’ve accepted the discouragement — we can never get enough done; we can’t fix everything; we can’t ever make it last — will we be prepared to receive the encouragement of His provision for us. God has done all that is impossible for us, all that creates meaning, and He gives the results of that work to us. Free. Our only task is to receive and to rejoice.

I hope you take this perspective into exams in the coming weeks. Don’t consider it an excuse to be lazy but as an encouragement to rejoice as you study, knowing that God is using every seemingly “meaningless” part of your life to do His great and beautiful work in you. 

Finally, do yourself a favor and read the rest of the book. Prepare to be discouraged — and wonderfully reassured. 

Share this story!

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest

Leave a Reply