It is all just a puff of smoke, isn't it? But it is a deceptive puff, no doubt. Try to grab the smoke and contain it somehow and it always eludes you. Always. Nothing lasts. Whatever possessions, accomplishments or even people we keep near to us always escapes. They leave. And yet we idolize the puff and imagine that somehow it will be like magic smoke that brings fulfillment to us. It doesn't. It can't. It was never supposed to.
But what about pleasure, laughter, friends and women? Certainly they can sustain us. Happiness, companionship and erotic pleasure will surely be enough. Solomon, in Ecclesiastes, writes of having everything his heart could desire. He had money, fame, power, comedy, vineyards and wine. He had houses, gardens, pools and lots of beautiful women. His late-in-life estimation of all of that was, it is madness, useless, vanity. It is fleeting, deceptive and empty. It cannot bring joy.
I spoke at a graduation service last evening. My message was from Ecclesiastes. Even while I spoke it was almost as if I could hear a whisper in the background saying, vanity, vanity--all is vanity. Everyone and everything that you see is just a puff of smoke--temporary, transitory, deceptive and yet demanding of worship. It was haunting.
Thankfully Ecclesiastes helps us to focus the mind. Solomon tells us that there is a way to enjoy life. We learn how to enjoy food, drink, relationships, gardens, pools, vineyards, money and pleasure. In fact Solomon commands and commends joy. He launches his big guns at a life of seeking pleasure apart from God. But for one who knows God and pleases God--grab the joy he says. Don't miss the dance even as trouble lurks. When sudden disaster threatens with loud booms of thunder--keep singing. And even as the eyes dim, the ears can no longer hear, the limbs are bent and brittle--even then there are delightful words of truth to be grasped and seized. Seize the joy. But do so in the context of knowing, loving, fearing and obeying God.