Ecclesiastes 2:14-26 (NRSV)
14 The wise have eyes in their head, but fools walk in darkness. Yet I perceived that the same fate befalls all of them. 15 Then I said to myself, "What happens to the fool will happen to me also; why then have I been so very wise?" And I said to myself that this also is vanity. 16 For there is no enduring remembrance of the wise or of fools, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How can the wise die just like fools? 17 So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me; for all is vanity and a chasing after wind. 18 I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to those who come after me 19 -and who knows whether they will be wise or foolish? Yet they will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20 So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21 because sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22 What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? 23 For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity. 24 There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God; 25 for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 26 For to the one who pleases him God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy; but to the sinner he gives the work of gathering and heaping, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a chasing after wind.
The author and pastor John Killinger tells of a man who drove him to a speaking engagement. As they were making their way to their destination, the man told Killinger about his daughter who had become addicted to alcohol in middle school. By the time she was in high school, she was addicted to hard drugs. She was sent to detox three times but afterwards she always relapsed. Eventually, she ended up in prison. She called her dad asking that he come and get her. The police promised to release her into his custody. Following the advice of his Al-Anon group, he refused. It was the hardest thing he had ever done, he told Killinger.
He then told Killinger that while his daughter was in prison, his son was in a fatal motorcycle accident. The father had to identify the body. Killinger wrote that the man spoke of God the entire time he talked about his daughter and son. The father told Killinger, "Before . . . I believed in God. Now I have faith. I couldn't have got through without God."1
Stories like that are told over and over again in Al-Anon groups, AA, and in our own PALS (Parents of Addicted loved ones) group. The writer of Ecclesiastes writes that "All is vanity." It certainly feels that way at times. I'm amazed what people suffer through. I'm also moved by their faith.
God begin a good work in each of us on the day we were born. As we journey through the difficulties of life, God travels with us. As the theologian Jürgen Moltmann once said, "God weeps with us so that one day we may laugh with Him." Along the way we hopefully discover that allowing God into the dark moments--letting others see how God sustains us and holds us--can make all the difference. May we proclaim as the father proclaimed that "I couldn't have got through without God."Think about it.