Goodness, what happened to Solomon? Wise man turned cynic? Is this even the same guy who prayed that wonderful, exemplary prayer in 1 Kings 8?
Solomon uses the phrase “All is Vanity” several times in Ecclesiastes 2.
He gives into every desire he’s ever had . . . all is vanity.
He denies himself nothing . . . all is vanity.
He lives in excess . . . all is vanity.
He gains wisdom . . . all is vanity.
He works hard . . . all is vanity.
He is saying whether we give into every desire or refrain, live in much or live in little; gain wisdom or folly; live in darkness or light; hardworking or lazy; we all die anyway . . . it’s all in vain! So we might as well eat and drink and find enjoyment in our toil (v.2:24) since it all ends the same for us.
Can you hear the despair? Cynicsm? Skepticism? Hopelessness? What has happened to Solomon? When we lose our focus on God, we lose our perseverance, our understanding, our hope. Even now as I’m writing this I am overwhelmed with the realization that is just might be what happened to me. Not in life, but in my career as a teacher.
I started out ready to change the world my first year of teaching. So excited and bright eyed, I was going to be a revolutionary. As each year went on, I lost focus and felt like I was sucked into believing that it was “just too hard”. I began thinking that no matter what I did as a teacher, “all was vanity”-it didn’t matter. The kids would learn what they’d learn, it really wasn’t up to me. Like Solomon said, to “gain wisdom is better than folly” (v.2:13), but it didn’t matter anyway.
Since opening up 1 Kings months ago, I have just been obsessed with Solomon’s life. He was the wisest man to ever live, his prayer in 1 Kings 8 was amazing, he wrote books in the Bible . . . and died a cynic far from God. He started out in a sprint for God and burned out.
I just keep thinking, I don’t want to end up like Solomon. I don’t want to start well and end bad.
I look at my career and realize that already kind of happened. I lost my vision. I lost my passion. I lost focus. I lost hope . . . and I turned cynical. And now I’m cleaning through all the things I’ve collected over my short 5 years as a teacher, remembering how I used to love it, how I was so innovative and hopeful. And I’m wondering . . . how did I get here? Is this really over? Did I really come this far? Has my heart really turned this much?
I also keep thinking about how David wanted to build the temple for God (2 Samuel 7-see blog Broken Dreams). He was so passionate and excited and the LORD told him “David you did well that it was in your heart . . . but it is not you who shall build the house . . . (2 Chronicles 6:8). David had the desire to serve the LORD in this way, but it was just that . . . his desire, not the LORD’s. Good that it was in his heart, it just wasn't his work to be done.
I keep thinking of these two men, these stories, and wondering which one am I?
I’m trying to discern if I am believing the lie “all is vanity” and turning cynical or if it was well that it was in my heart to be a teacher, it’s just not God’s plan for me.
Am I losing hope or moving on? Cynical or obedient? Ending terribly or pursuing the LORD? Solomon or David?
If am completely honest, I am relating far too much to Solomon’s life story right now. I see a man who started with so much potential and slowly over his life compromised and ended far from the LORD. I am shaking, trembling, praying that is NOT me.
Now leaving the classroom to work for the church, oh this is even more terrifying. It is not longer “just a job”, but literally, kingdom work. It’s not about career, but about eternity. I hope I finish well, in pursuit after Christ, with my mind set on heavenly things, running with endurance, eyes set on the prize.