Life’s Enigmas (Part 4)

Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun. So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity. Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity. Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them.” (Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:1 ESV). At the end of this book of wisdom the Preacher gives us the practical ways to achieve this joy in the midst of life’s enigmas. There are four imperatives: choose joy (verse 9ab); live wisely (verse 9cd); cast away cares (verse 10ab); and, remember your Creator (verse 12:1). We’ll look at one of these each day. Today we consider choosing joy. Of course, choosing to rejoice is easier when days are bright. It’s much more difficult in the night when our baby will not be consoled, when we learn that our dad lost his job, or when melanoma reaches stage 4. However, the truth is to be found in taking this first step toward a life of joy. We must want it to have it. Let me give you a short definition because it seems ridiculous to think anyone would choose anything else but joy. We will see that many do just that. To rejoice is to find heart-felt pleasure in God and his gifts amidst both prosperity and adversity. We are to sustain joy through both seasons of pleasure and seasons of pain. Remember that the “heart” is both the seat of thought and of feeling. On the one hand, the Preacher can say, “I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly.” The heart can know things, and the knowledge we have needs ever to have God at its center. But joy is not merely a mental activity, for the heart is also the place of emotion. Look at our reading again. The three occurrences of the word “heart” declare that the heart gladdens a person; the heart guides the wise person; and, the heart feels. So, we must free ourselves from carrying troubles in order to maintain joy. When we remember the Giver, we turn our delights of Krispy Kreme, Vanilla Chocolate Mocha Latte, houses, cars, and career positions into praise. Sipping a hot chocolate on a crisp morning, taking a walk at the park during the peak of fall colors, receiving a promotion with pay increase at work; all these are gifts from God, and we should savor them and celebrate them to the praise of the Giver. We now can expand our definition and say that to rejoice is to find God-given, heartfelt pleasure in God and his gifts amidst both prosperity and...

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