Solomon is realistic with his assessment about life. He reminds us of the limitations of our foresight. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. The future is uncertain. He writes in Ecclesiastes 9:1, “People don’t know whether to expect love or hate. Everything lies ahead of them (The Holman Christian Standard Bible).” While the future is uncertain, death is not. Our character, religious affiliations, personal morality, and commitment or non commitment to God will not stop our steady progress into the grave.
Not only do we grapple with the challenge of the uncertain future and certain death but Solomon also bluntly describes the hearts of men as being “full of evil”. He writes: “… madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead (9:3).”
Solomon doesn’t leave us to face such things without hope! He points out that we still have hope…as long as we have life. “For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun (9:4).”
Solomon’s advice is solidly based on the concept that happiness is possible for those who have had their works accepted by the LORD. Solomon’s commands center on being joyful in our daily lives, and whole-hearted in our work. He tells us to be joyful, as those who have been accepted by the LORD, even though we know the future is uncertain and life is short. We labor not as those who seek acceptance but as those who are already accepted because of Christ and His work on the cross! Our joy springs from our knowledge of how God has accepted us because of the cross of Jesus. We’ve been gifted with salvation!
How can we apply this? We can build a foundation for Christian contentment and happiness with this information.
Be realistic. The future is uncertain, death is not. We live in a sinful world where people do have hearts which are full of sin and madness. Christians don’t live in an alternate reality where everything is sunshine and roses. We know the nature of the world in which we live. Christ has redeemed us from just such a world, and left us to share the gospel.
Be confident. We labor in the midst of a fallen world as people who are accepted in the Beloved. We’re free from the wages of sin because of the blood of Christ given at the cross. If we’re to be happy we must be confident of our justification- that we’ve been given a new standing before God. You’ll never be content if you’re not convinced you’re saved and free from condemnation!
Be obedient. The New Testament commands us to “Rejoice in the Lord and again I say rejoice!” Thanksgiving and praise are also NT commands. These ideas in the NT echo Solomon’s commands about rejoicing in our food and with our spouse. We can’t wait to feel happy in order to be happy. We must submit our wills to the truth of our happiness in Christ. We’re commanded to rejoice because we possess eternal life. Our future is assured. We’re safe in the arms of Jesus!