I remember hearing once that ‘The book of Proverbs says “Live this way and life will go well.” The books of Job and Ecclesiastes say ” We tried it. It’s not that simple.”‘
Where Proverbs is largely set out as advice from the wise to the young, Ecclesiastes seems more like the private reflections of Solomon in later life. He’s had all insight into the world, and has indulged (and, let’s be honest, over-indulged) all sensual pleasures. And now he finds that it’s all empty – ‘vanity of vanities’.
When he ran out of new things to try, when he recognised that life keeps going round, and that he couldn’t take his wealth and achivements with him, Ecclesiastes found meaning finally only in God (2:24-26).
Of course, some people do find meaning and purpose in life without conscious reference to God – but there must still be something bigger than the self, and longer-term than the moment, for someone who reflects on life to find satisfaction in the long run. Self-indulgence sickens after a while, and even learning becomes lifeless if it is not put to some good use.
So where will I find my meaning?