The Pursuit of Happiness
Stride by stride, every person on the face of the earth is chasing something. They are either pursuing acclaim, success, satisfaction, fulfillment, or their idea of the perfect family in a photo frame. While all of those goals seem drastically different, they remain the same at the core. Everyone is pursuing happiness. We share the pursuit, but how do we get to where we are going? Fortunately for us, the ancient wisdom book of Ecclesiastes offers profound guidance for our pursuit of happiness.
Sociologist Gregg Easterbrook explained, “The percentage of people who describe themselves as “happy” has not budged since the 1950s, though the typical person’s real income more than doubled through that period. Happiness has not increased in Japan orWestern Europe in the past half-century.” The modern world was built on the foundation of people’s collective pursuit of happiness. While we may have assumed that’s what we were accomplishing, culture has clearly missed the mark.
What will bring you happiness?
So, as we explore Solomon’s wise words in Ecclesiastes, please ask yourself this crucial question. What are you currently pursuing to make you happy? What is that thing you think is the key to the happiness locked away in your heart? Is it success, a new job, a relationship, a different tax bracket, a different city, or a trophy on your shelf? Whatever came to mind, please write it down and keep it in mind as we journey through Solomon’s wisdom together.
Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’ What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course.Ecclesiastes 1:2-6
Everything is Meaningless. What’s the Point?
By our culture’s standards, Solomon should be the happiest person in history. His wealth was staggering. Modest estimates suggest that Solomon’s wealth would rack up to nearly $12 billion today. Money. Chariots. Friends. Parties. Expensive art. Fine meals. Designer sandals. Solomon had it all, but he still concluded that everything “under the sun” proves to be meaningless and repetitious. I imagine Solomon peaked out his window to survey his exquisite estate just to conclude, “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).
The Hebrew word for “meaningless” is hebel, which loosely translates as “vapor or breath.” Think of when you exhale a deep breath in the middle of winter and a cloud of vapor pours from your lungs. It’s there for a moment; then it vanishes. You can see it and perceive it, but it’s not lasting. It’s there for a moment; then it’s gone. This is why understanding biblical language is so helpful. Solomon’s strategic use of hebel reveals his core argument. Everything is meaningless because it’s not eternal. Your job won’t last forever. Your car will break down eventually. Your wealth will run out one day. Not to be morbid, but your loved ones will eventually have funerals. Everything is temporary. It’s just a vapor that’s here for a moment, then vanishes into thin air.
Where do we find meaning and purpose?
A random, reoccurring prepositional phrase is the guide map to escaping Solomon’s confusing maze of meaning in Ecclesiastes. Twenty-seven times, he points out that we are “under the sun.” This is not just a weather update for the sunny deserts of Israel. “Under the sun” is the context of his conclusion. The wise king wants you to understand that everything under the sun is meaningless because it’s all temporary.
You discover meaning when you attach an eternal mindset to your everyday monotony. The world in front of you is only a snapshot of ultimate reality. The spiritual world, heaven, and God’s Kingdom make our vast universe look like a molehill next to Mount Everest. Live your life with that in mind, and you will discover meaning. Everything temporary may be meaningless, but everything can bring glory to God. We make meaning when we magnify God amid the monotony of life.
Watch the full video Bible study:
This devotional is based on a Bible study from the LFC circles App that introduces Solomon’s pessimistic book and explains his pursuit of happiness in a life where everything seems meaningless.