Pleasing in His sight

Jell-O is an interesting thing. Half solid, half liquid, this gelatinous delicacy seems to defy description. You can’t really drink it. And you don’t really eat it, either. Joy is kind of like that, too. I mean, you know it when you experience it, but trying to figure out what it is and how to gain it is roughly akin to trying to nailing Jell-O to a tree. It’s a tough thing to do. And I must admit that, as I’ve been studying this phenomenon for nearly a year now, I have been, at times, frustrated by the lack of concrete details about the thing. But in Ecclesiastes 2:26, I think I’ve found a very simple key: I can’t create joy. It has to be given. More specifically, it has to be given by God. And there is only one way that He’s going to give it to me. I need to be pleasing in His sight.

But what, exactly, does that mean? Well, the author of Ecclesiastes, who I am assuming is Solomon, knew quite a bit about joy. In fact, his entire book, one might say, is an exploration of what it is that will – and will not – bring joy. And by the end of Ecclesiastes 2, where this verse falls, he had already explored several of the options that I like to think should bring joy: wisdom, pleasure, stuff, work, and more.  And he had found that, in and of themselves, none of these things were capable of imparting joy.

None of them.

And so, in verse 24, he reached a conclusion that would recur throughout the rest of the book: “There is nothing better for man than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work.” In other words, the best we can hope and work for is that we have the stuff we need and enjoy what we do. That is, in Solomon’s estimation, as good as it gets. Perhaps at first glance it seems rather fatalistic, but if you think about it, doesn’t it sound refreshingly good?

And then Solomon realizes, “I have seen that even this is from God’s hand, because who can eat and who can enjoy life apart from Him?” In other words, it’s not money or alcohol or sex or drugs or a great job or huge house or fancy car or anything else that enables them to enjoy life. It’s God.

God alone can give real, lasting joy. And as Solomon notes, He does that for those who are pleasing in His sight. What does that mean? Well, according to 1 Timothy 2:2-3, God wants us to live a “tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity,” which Paul believes will open the door for others “to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (vs 4 HCSB).

So if you want to have joy, you have to let God give it to you. And if you want God to give it to you, you have to live a peaceful, godly, dignified life committed to sharing the Good News with others. Seems pretty straightforward to me.

But again, the key is that these things in and of themselves won’t get it for me. God is the one who enables and imparts joy. It’s just my job to open myself up so that He can.

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