Somehow there is a myth floating around that when you follow Jesus life has certain tangible perks. When your Father is God and Jesus is the reigning King, you expect that finances won't be quite as tight, relationships will be easier, and life will be a bit merrier. A little bit of false advertising. Seemingly innocent expectations. But these beliefs are far from innocent. When you expect wine and roses and end up with gruel, your confidence in the Lord wanes. Maybe, you wonder, this relationship with Christ is just a life insurance policy after all. It is good for when you die, but costly for when you live. Life insurance policies are boring, at best. Maybe the Bible has no real-world application.
And what about the many men and women who jettison their faith because they encounter suffering - lots of suffering - and following Christ seems to make absolutely no difference? They have been spared nothing. There is a rule in suffering: the more intense the suffering, the more alone you feel from both other people and the Lord. There are times when life is a painful mess, and if God doesn't speak to us in the midst of that mess, why bother?
In Ecclesiastes, God speaks into the mess. Ecclesiastes is not about happy thoughts that deny earthly realities. Instead, the Preacher, along with the other voice we hear in Ecclesiastes, open our eyes even wider than normal. They take us to all the hard places. They hear our questions and run further with them until all is laid bare. Every once in a while you might think that Ecclesiastes is written by a dour existentialist, but, somehow, even before you get to the end of the book, you can tell that this examination of life will end in hope and result in more meaning and fullness that we can comprehend.
Stanley D. Gale serves as senior minister of the Reformed Presyterian Church in West Chester, PA. He has authored a number of works on spiritual warfare, including Warfare Witness: Contending with Spiritual Opposition in Everyday Evangelism.
"At the end of Stan's time with you in Ecclesiastes, you won't have a formula for wealth, wisdom or beauty, but you will find comfort, hope and meaning as you know your God is worthy of your complete trust." - From the foreward by Edward T. Welch
"The message of Ecclesiastes has an amazingly contemporary ring to it; but with one important caveat. It does not merely reflect the mood of confusion and disillusionment with life that pervades an entire generation today, it also provides answers that today's world does not have. Stan Gale uses Ecclesiastes, in his own words, as a ‘lens' through which to view the spectrum of life and in doing so has done our generation a service. He allows this book from another world to speak eloquently into ours to help us make sense of it in light of eternity." - Mark G. Johnston, Senior Pastor, Proclamation Presbyterian Church