For years now I’ve followed the Robert Murray M’Cheyne reading plan that takes you through the entire Bible in one year (and the Psalms and the New Testament twice). And every year when the time for Ecclesiastes rolls around I say to myself, “This is the year when I’m going to understand what this book is all about.”
And…every year the same thing happens. Every year I wonder how such a hopeless, depressing, world-centered book got into the canon in the first place. Every year I wonder what I’m missing, how I’m supposed to get something out of this portion of God’s word.
Every year I dutifully finish reading the words of the Preacher and am relieved that I don’t have to meet him again until the following year.
Digging into Ecclesiastes
In 2018 I decided to change that. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to do an in-depth study of this book that had me so befuddled. I started by reading it—a pretty good place to start! I listened to a preaching series (it wasn’t very satisfying, but I’d just gotten started). Then I hit my first (of several) commentaries.
I chose Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End by David Gibson, mostly because it was one of Desiring God’s Top 17 Books of 2017 (love that annual list compiled by Tony Reinke!). And finally the light began to dawn.
This isn’t a book review (here’s a quick take: Great book! Read it!). It’s about how reading (and beginning to understand) Ecclesiastes has changed my day-to-day mundane life. Because when you look closely, when you look with eyes that seek out wonder and amazement, you’ll find that there’s no such thing as a mundane life.
Be Amazed – Every Day!
We all know that God created the world. What we tend to forget (or maybe it’s just me – what I tend to forget) is that he goes on and on, sustaining us, holding all of creation together. Every rock, every caterpillar, every molecule, every cupcake—everything is held together by the word of his power. If you meditate on that for a minute or two it takes your breath away.
All of creation, not just humanity, has been broken by sin. But even in its groaning condition the world remains a place of astounding beauty and a display of incredible imagination. I spent part of yesterday in a butterfly conservatory where I learned that adult butterflies live only two-to-four weeks. I stood in the middle of a kaleidoscope of flying critters, flashing stained-glass wings, beautiful in flight, alight, even just the idea of such creatures. What extravagance—to only grace the world for a few weeks! What a generous, preposterous, unrestrained, lavish, boundlessly gracious God to give us the gift of these small flying jewels.
Gifts of a Loving Father
If we look at the world, our jobs, our wealth, our friends, our pleasures, as ways to find meaning and happiness we will come away empty. (“Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”) Even the most beautiful vista, the most alluring lover, the most decadent pleasure cannot quench the longing deep inside of us.
Our restless hearts are calmed for only the briefest of moments and then the longing returns. But if we look at those very same things as gifts given to us by a loving Father, given to us to enjoy not worship, to use to glorify him—then those things slip into their rightful places and we can find pleasure and happiness as we exult in blessings given to us because he loves us so. When our hearts come to rest in God we find that lasting peace that allows us to thrill to the world around us because he made it for us to enjoy.
And so every day I make it a point to look at the world determined to find something amazing. It might be my winter-straw front lawn coming to life again right before my eyes. It might be fresh gratitude that God made us to live in community and the wonder I feel when I think about the sweet friends who make my life so much better than it would be without them.
It might be considering the astounding variety of foods that he provides (we don’t just have to eat manna all-day-every-day!). It might be the sweet voice of a co-worker’s little daughter chattering in the office next to mine. All of those things—if you really think about them—are amazing.
I use the hashtag #BeAmazedEveryDay to go along with a picture or a post of something “mundane” that reveals its improbability, its complexity, its declaration of a Creator who sustains his creation. The exercise forces me to see the world with eyes open to finding gifts, wonder, delight. I’m awed by a gracious God who gives with such openhanded benevolence. I’m amazed every day.