There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity.
When things aren’t going well in our lives, when we endure trials and hardships, it’s easy for us to compare our lives with the lives of others. Specifically, with those that don’t know the Lord or with those we view as being spiritually “below” us. In case that made no sense to you, here’s a possible scenario: You’re going through the hardest times right now – financially, physically, maybe even some personal/family problems. And then there’s Bob down the street who, even by the world’s definition, isn’t the greatest guy. And yet his life is going great. I mean, you don’t even talk to the guy, but you know that things are going pretty well for him – new house, new car, no worries in the world. And then there’s that girl from church who doesn’t exactly show up every Sunday. She’s not that involved, you see her at church maybe once or twice a month…she’s obviously not as spiritually mature as you are. But her life seems to be going really well too. Here you are, slaving over work and home issues, AND going to church three times a week, but your life is going down the drain.
It’s easy to fall into this way of thinking: He/she isn’t even (a good) Christian, but is doing well, enjoying life, and prospering. Why am I suffering in this way? I know the Lord…I’m a good person. Why am I the one struggling?
When we are enduring hardships, we often look on others who are (seemingly) stress/worry-free with contempt and bitterness. We want to know WHY they don’t struggle like we do. But here in Ecclesiastes, we find that engaging in such thinking is VANITY. There’s no point to it; nothing good comes from it. In fact, thinking in this manner only serves one purpose: it drowns our hearts and minds in anger, bitterness, cynicism – everything negative.
Y’all, the Lord has called us to more. Rather than comparing our lives to lives of others, we must choose to rejoice in our sufferings. Instead of giving our minds over to purposeless thinking, we must remember to turn our thoughts to the Lord. Thinking that we deserve to live easy lives is preposterous. More so, thinking that we deserve to live easy lives because we are Christian/more Christian than the girl next door, is not only preposterous, but downright arrogant. That’s pride talking, y’all. Since when do we get to be the judge? Since when do we have the all-surpassing knowledge and perfection needed to be a righteous decider on who deserves what?
We don’t deserve anything.
Wait. Correction: We don’t deserve anything GOOD. What we deserve is death, pain, suffering, eternal damnation. We are sinners, and the only punishment for sin is death. We don’t deserve to live easy lives. We don’t deserve to live stress-free, struggle-free. And being a Christian certainly doesn’t mean that we are guaranteed blissful, carefree lives. In fact, we were promised suffering. We were promised struggles. The Lord Jesus Himself tells us this:
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
I have chosen to follow the Lord. I have chosen the narrow path. I have chosen to deny myself. Thus, I must follow through and take up my cross. In the same way, if you have chosen God, your Creator and Sustainer, over this world, know that you are far more blessed than you could ever imagine. But also realize that Jesus warned us it wouldn’t be easy.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
And then we come to the problem of mean people. Let’s face it: much of the struggles we face in this world are because of people who hurt us or make our lives difficult. Yes, there are financial issues and things that are outside of human control that fall into the “struggles of life” category. But a lot of the time, we find it easy to attribute our struggles to a person. Whether it’s your boss at work who is constantly berating you, the Regina George (Mean Girls) of your high school who makes you feel worthless, the so-called “friends” who don’t care that their jokes hurt you, or the family members who keep telling you you’re not good enough – we all have encountered mean people.
Yesterday, I was reading through the Psalms and came across these verses:
My heart throbs; my strength fails me,
and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague,
and my nearest kin stand far off.
Those who seek my life lay their snares;
those who seek my hurt speak of ruin
and meditate treachery all day long.
But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear,
like a mute man who does not open his mouth.
I have become like a man who does not hear,
and in whose mouth are no rebukes.
But for you, O Lord, do I wait;
it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
Wow. David sure does sound like he’s hating life right about now. He’s physically weak, his friends and family have all abandoned him, and to make matters worse, his enemies are seeking to ruin him. But check out the last half of that excerpt. “But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear, like a mute man who does not open his mouth.”
Um. I don’t know about y’all, but I sure as heck would not be deaf and dumb as my life crumbles to pieces before me. And I certainly wouldn’t be keeping my mouth shut while all these mean people try to ruin my reputation and screw up my life! That’s just my personality – it’s in my nature (and probably in yours as well) to get angry when someone’s trying to mess up my life. But wow, what an example David is for us. Not only does he keep his mouth shut, but he refuses to listen to the things his enemies are saying/doing against him. He doesn’t consider avenging himself. He doesn’t entertain any negative emotions or thoughts. He doesn’t let any of it get to him. Matthew Henry’s commentary on this verse states the following:
The less notice we take of the unkindness and injuries that are done us, the more we consult the quiet of our own minds.
— Matthew Henry
How profound! By being deaf and silent in the face of this battle, David kept himself from sin and brought glory to the name of the Lord. David responded to his enemies in much the same way Christ did as He was being mocked and tortured for our sake (Isaiah 53:7): as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, as a sheep that before its shearers is silent. In the same way, we must conduct ourselves meekly towards our enemies, that we may keep ourselves from sin and bring glory to the One who paid our ransom.
Suffering is a part of the human existence. Whether you are a born again Believer or not, struggles will come. The beautiful thing about being a Christian enduring trials is that you don’t have to face them on your own. You can lay your burdens at His feet. And while the struggle may last for a while, the release will certainly come. We may not know the exact moment in which it will appear, but we do know with full confidence that freedom from struggle is ours because our God is perfectly faithful. May we engage in constant communication with our Father, our Provider, our Strength, our Healer, our All – rather than dwelling on the vain things in this life.
After all, this life is but a breath…
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.