What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.
I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away. Ecclesiastes 3:9-15 (ESV)
The book of Ecclesiastes has traditionally been attributed to Solomon, the son of King David. Upon ascending David’s throne, Solomon asked God for wisdom, and God granted him wisdom, more so than any man (save Jesus) who has lived before or since. At the end of his life it is said he wrote the book of Ecclesiastes (which means “one who speaks openly to the congregation.” )
The work of life can be joyful as well as it can be exhausting or downright vexing. We are given different tasks during different seasons of life as well. Teens and students may work exhausting schedules doing dirty or menial work for low pay, along with keeping up with classes and friends. Young mothers may feel strapped between work and the demands of children and chores and schedules. The middle aged and elderly may have to struggle to keep up with the demands of work within the context of personal health limitations and the needs of aging parents and loved ones.
We can’t admit to loving our vocations all of the time. Sometimes we feel as if life is just one giant ratwheel spinning out of control with no way to get off of it or to change course. The Teacher (Solomon) of Ecclesiastes points this futility we see in life out quite often- “all is vanity, vanity and chasing after wind,” is a phrase repeated throughout this book.
Even amidst all his talk about vanity, the Teacher still points us back to God. He has made everything beautiful in His time. Even our vanity and seeming futility serves God’s purpose, even if we never understand it.
Everything is beautiful? Really? Even all the evil that surrounds us? Even our own fatigue and apathy and rage? Is there anything beyond our hopelessness, frustration, and despair?
Burnout is a very real thing. It can result from indulging in the very human tendency to believe we are the ones in charge (vanity and chasing after wind, anyone?) or from our own arrogance in thinking that the world will fall apart without our contribution to it. The sin of the Garden, after all, was the temptation and the desire to be as God. Burnout is a wake up call to remind us that no matter what we do we are not God.
What God does lasts forever. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.
Faith is trusting God’s plan even when we are exhausted, burned out, and at the end of ourselves. Perhaps that is where God wants us to be, so that He can set our priorities, that He can lead us to rest and to joy in who we are, where we are and what we do.
Lord, help us to trust You that we are in the circumstances where You need us to be. Forgive us for our doubt and relieve us of our fears. Our times are in Your hands, let us be joyful and do good, and find pleasure in the work of our hands.