Sunday, August 25, 2013

Futility: What's the Point?

Futility. By definition it means useless acts. The Hebrew meaning is breath or vapor. Essentially it's something that is here one second and gone the next. It's also a word used by Solomon many times in the book of Ecclesiastes. In some versions of the Bible you may recognize the use of the word vanity

Personally, I have a harder time identifying with that word in this context. My mind immediately goes to someone who spends a lot of time trying to look good for others, a cabinet in your bathroom, and the song, "You're So Vain." So, I prefer futility or meaningless as a word substitute.

I've experienced a lot of that futility myself. My flesh often sees life through the world’s eyes. I think, What’s the point? It seems the harder I try, the more things stay the same or worsen. It's very much like that addage of taking three steps forward and two steps back. You just can't seem to get any traction and haven't a lot to show for your efforts.

I recall as a teenager studying through the book of Ecclesiastes with a church class. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really understand it and it was a real downer! I just couldn’t identify with Solomon. As I look back on it, I now understand why. I had not lived a lot of life yet. The idea of futility probably never entered my mind. My whole life was still ahead of me and I had few responsibilities since I was still living in the shelter of my parents.

After living a few more decades (ugh, that sounds old), I've lived through many more experiences--both first-hand and by observation. Life does have a tendency to look futile. But, of course, by whose standards? Are these my standards? The worlds' standards? Or are these God's standards?
Yes, I need to see things through God’s eyes. I need to have that heavenly perspective on things and put the measuring stick up against the Bible instead of the world's idea of success. 

Romans 8 reminds us of a different perspective. The things we suffer now will be nothing in comparison to future glory. This earth has been subjected to sin and that makes life pretty icky sometimes (my paraphrase), but we do have hope
Solomon's advice was to enjoy things we have rather than desiring those things we don't have. It's not that we cannot desire good things or pursue a better life, but how much time we spend focused on those desires or how much energy we use chasing those dreams can be futile. And, it may not be what God has in mind for us. Solomon tells us in Proverbs 16:9, "The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps."

That's what I've been thinking about this week.


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