“The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time.” (Ecclesiates 9:11 NLT)
One of my favorite things to proclaim when I was growing up was “That’s not fair!!” I’m sure that is a popular saying for just about every child who has walked this planet. My dad would always respond with “Life isn’t fair, you’re just going to have to learn to live with it.” As an adult, I think of both of these sayings quite often. Being a grown up, I see countless situations that aren’t fair and I’ve learned to realize that life really won’t ever be fair. I’m still trying to figure out how to live with that.
I recently read through Ecclesiastes, a largely pessimistic book in the Bible that over and over again states “Everthing is meaningless, a chase after the wind.” You can work hard, gain wisdom, amass wealth, and accomplish great feats in life, but in the end, everyone dies. Your hard work might not turn out the way you planned. Your great wisdom won’t necessarily make you wealthy, famous, or successful. Great wealth won’t bring you happiness, nor does it shield you from disasters and heartache. And you can accomplish some pretty amazing things, but there will always be more to accomplish, and someone else will accomplish more and better things. It really is all meaningless.
Our searching and striving and hoping and dreaming for more and a better life accomplishes nothing.
Tomorrow isn’t promised.
Unavoidable disaster may be just around the corner and it might derail all of your plans. Success and money will not make you happy.
You can practice and prepare and work harder than everyone else and still never achieve your goals.
“How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog – it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” (James 4:14 NLT)
There are no guarantees in life. There are no common goals that lead to “the good life”. There is no such things as “the good life”. No one is protected from suffering or bad things.
So often we hold out hope for a better day. We create dream boards on Pinterest of all the things we want our life to look like when… We make lists of all the things we’d like to buy, repair, or do someday when we have more money, more time, more blessings. We dream up these tremendous goals for ourselves, our careers, and our families in the hopes that one day we can live the life of our dreams.
But I’m realizing that living in my dreams is not really living. I’m starting to see that all of this striving and searching and hoping just leaves me tired and empty. Is the chance for a better life tomorrow worth the cost of today?
Sure, I can work really hard and I might happen to achieve every single goal I set for myself, but that won’t give me happiness and it doesn’t insulate me from disaster or tragedy.
What I do have is today. I have my life and my breath and the circumstances of this day. That is all that I am guaranteed. My future may not appear as I expect. Happiness shouldn’t be sought after, it should be lived, today, in the context of this moment in time.
It’s been raining a lot lately in our area and we have four separate leaks in our basement. I’m regularly dumping buckets and mopping up puddles trying to keep up with the drips to keep damages minimal. It is not in our budget to make the necessary repairs right now to stop the leaks. I dream of days when the budget has a lot more breathing room.
But today I look out my window and I see rain pouring down on my luscious and bountiful vegetable garden. I know that there is good, healthy, beautiful food to feed my family this summer. These heavy rains our helping to create a generous harvest.
My son has been sick almost constantly for the past 8 months. After numerous tests and doctors and medicines and opinions, we still don’t have any answers. A common theme is that daycares are germy places. I put my kid back on antibiotics this weekend for what seems like the 100th time this year and this morning I dropped him back off at germy daycare. My goal is to have a career that would allow me to keep my kids home when their little immune systems need a break from all the germs.
But today I will pick my son up from daycare and I know that he will be surrounded by his little friends laughing and playing, crashing cars and singing silly songs. He’ll run to me the moment he sees me and squeal with delight for his mommy. But I’ll also catch that slight glance back at his friends and his teachers who love him so much. These days amongst the germs and away from mom are actually pretty fun and he knows that he can find love and joy and friendship away from home. He is learning to trust others. He is learning that this big scary world is a good place (because even in the midst of the bad, it really is good).
I’ve “mommy tracked” myself in my career. I currently have no hopes for advancement in my current position unless we move our family to a place where we don’t want to live. I’m not willing to give up the freedoms and flexibilities that I currently have to find a position elsewhere that would allow me growth and advancement in my career. But I long for the day when I can once again be proud of my accomplishments at work and feel like I’m fully utilizing my skills.
But today I will notify a woman that she has been accepted into a degree program that will provide her with the skills she needs to continue her mission of spreading the gospel in another country. A country that so desparately needs to hear the hope of the love of Jesus. My work today is truly changing lives and accomplishing great things for the Kingdom.
You see everything is meaningless and hopeless and dark and fruitless, until God comes in and works his magic.
“In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Life isn’t fair and it doesn’t go according to our plans. We may not ever accomplish all of our dreams or live the life that we long for. We are assured that we will suffer in this life.
God is sovereign and He has full control. He didn’t promise a life without hard times, but He promised that He would use all things, the good and the bad, for his glory.
I think that part of the reason that everything is meaningless is because the end of the story has already been told. God wins. Death is defeated. Sin is overcome. Darkness is overshadowed by light. Love reigns victorious.
We can stop dreaming and wishing and striving because our hope is in something, someone greater than our light and momentary struggles. Our hope is in the One who reigns victorious, no matter how hard we work, or how often we fail.
You see, dreams and goals in and of themselves aren’t bad. But striving to attain anything in our own power and with our own plans is guaranteed to be useless. Our God wins through His own power, not because of something we did or did not achieve.
Our life has meaning and value and beauty because God, in His Sovereignty, chose to shower us with blessings, not because we set all the right goals and worked the hardest.
“Overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39 NLT)
So we grab hold of that love and live faithfully with Christ today, trusting that the one who brought us to this space in time, will bring us through with overwhelming victory, despite ourselves. We stop dreaming of a better tomorrow and we ask God what He would have us do today.
When we sit down to create goals and dreams for our future we first look heavenward to seek His face and His glory. We set our sights not on things seen, but on things unseen. We learn to dream through His eyes. To see our lives and this world the way that He does. We make it our goal to know Jesus more intimately than we know ourselves so that His passions become our passions and we become motivated by bringing Him glory and renown.
We stop striving to create a beautiful life on our terms and we instead strive to live out His beautiful story, spreading His love and His mercy to an unfair world.
My goal, my aim, my dream is to dwell in the shelter of the Most High, to find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. For He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. That’s what matters. All else fades away.