James Russel Lowell, lawyer, politician, writer, poet and New Englander, rightfully and wonderfully reminds us of the hope and joy of spring’s renewal with the opening words of his famous poem: “And what is so rare as a day in June?” However, in Maine, (Lowell lived in Southern New England), there is no day rarer than a beautiful , summer day in July or early August. Although fleeting, those days are much anticipated. It is when summer begins (and nearly ends). It is a time of summer fun- vacations, family time, camping, hiking, swimming, picnicking, beaching, backyard grilling and bocce ball, festivals, reunions and sailing!
We enjoy life but are also challenged by it. King Solomon should be our “go to” mentor about life. He had it all to enjoy– unrestricted in wealth, possessions, available work and hobbies, pleasures (wine, women, entertainment), knowledge, privilege and power. But none of that made him a happy man. He determined that his accumulations, aspirations, and achievements meant nothing in the eternal scheme of things… None of it would last. From that perspective, he garnered some principles of living that help guide us into satisfying lives.
First, “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)
Second: “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, “for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment.” (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25)
The King realized that pleasure and satisfaction comes “from the hand of God”. Sometimes we“toil” too hard for “happiness! A degree from an expensive, prestigious college may mean years of student loan debt. Work stresses and financial demands associated with large homes, multiple cars, boats, and other adult toys mean sacrificing time and investments in important relationships. Life is not meant to be so intense that it becomes burdensome, worrisome, and exhausting, Although there is nothing wrong with improving or bettering oneself or situation, there is the danger of losing focus, of not placing life in the context of God’s purposes. Pleasure seeking becomes folly and futile when achievements, power, privilege, professions, and wealth are our idols. So much of our striving is ultimately “meaningless”. The Psalmist also reminds us to consider this, “Remember how short my life is, how empty and futile this human existence!” (Psalm 89:47) We rob ourselves and don’t realize it!
Third: Solomon concluded:”The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
So, our relationship with God is central to happiness! Respect, reverence, recognition of God’s authority and maintaining God’s principles by which to live are not only the “whole duty” of man but are the best, most pleasing way of living. Having good but misguided goals is way too easy. Neglecting God is way too easy! Carving out idols is way too easy! Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, understood this about his people who had given themselves to idolatry. He grieved for them and agonized, “My grief is beyond healing; my heart is broken ” because they had recognized their folly too late and lamented, “The harvest is finished, and the summer is gone, yet we are not saved!”(Jeremiah 8:18-22)
July and August in Maine can’t be beat, but the summer passes quickly and suddenly harvest is upon us! Metaphorically this raises a serious question? When our summers have gone and our harvest is finished, what will we have produced? Anything of eternal value? Have we just entertained the idea of God or have we included Him in our lives? Have we discovered that God cares enough about us to redeem us and that He is the ultimate source of all that is good and, therefore, our happiness? Do we realize that “for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?”