The Big Idea: The word, ‘meaningless,’ is not really meaningless.
Recently in a men’s Bible study, I had a life wrecking epiphany. It arrived somewhat as a climax to a longer journey. This journey has taken me from meaninglessness to meaningfulness. I discovered that the word, ‘meaningless’ is not really meaningless. Let me explain.
In our men’s weekly Bible study, we have been going through the book of Ecclesiastes and throughout its pages I have been learning that I need to live in the moment but not for the moment. As we continued this excursion through Ecclesiastes, I kept struggling with this. To me, it appears that the former leads to Life when I’m living in the moment for Jesus, but somehow the latter leads to a disconnected life, at best—one I am all too familiar with. …
At some point in my earlier years, I slipped into a very nihilistic, fatalistic philosophical morass, and sadly, even when I became a believer in Jesus, I would often slip back into this black vortex. I would seek out the perverted comfort of darkness by reading the Book of Ecclesiastes and wallow in the meaninglessness of its pages….
Or so I thought.
This wrecking epiphany began when we saw that one translation in particular (noted below), used the word “fleeting,” while other translations used words like, “meaningless,” or “vanity,” or “futility,” or even “pointless”. What did the Hebrew word mean, and why was it translated so?
Through various study sources, we came to understand that the word translated ‘fleeting’ means “breath” or “wind”. It carries with it the idea of useless and transitory things. From here we understood that the ‘things’ of this world offer a fleeting, transitory measure of satisfaction, but in the long run they “whoosh” like the wind. This ‘whoosh’ leaves us with wanting more and more and ultimately never satisfies.
From here I reasoned that life (lower case) really wasn’t so much meaningless as it was fleeting and unsubstantial. In this way seeking this life and the ‘things’ it offers most definitely can lead to meaninglessness, though not immediately. If I place my hope in the temporal, fleeting things of this seen world, then, yes, it leads to meaninglessness. But if I live in the moment for Jesus, the Life in Him is true substance and significance. Then the ‘things’ of this world do indeed fade away, but prior to their ‘fleeing,’ they are used for that which is truly greater & more substantial: His Good & His Glory.
The things of this world then become a means to an end and not an end in and of themselves. Living for them moment makes them an end in themselves, and thus a disconnected ‘meaninglessness’ arrives, but when I live in the moment for the eternal Jesus, His Life infuses the moment’s meaning for a greater, more substantial Moment.
Now some may find this rather heady and disconnected, but for me it gives the moments I have dreaded meaning. This understanding moves me away from a nihilistic/fatalistic view of the moment, to a larger view of Life and Hope and Meaning. Instead of wishing away the day hoping to be with Jesus in the by-and-by, I can truly live in the moment with Jesus and for Jesus. His Life—His eternal Life—is here and now as well as to come! It is both a quality of Life and a quantity of life.
The wrecking? I am moving from a disconnected isolation of moments and relationships to more substantial feelings and Life. Ironically, I have to experience the pain & discomfort of the moment in order to experience the Life and Hope and Joy. Living the old way with its inevitable detached numbing was safer insofar as pain was concerned, but no joy, no hope…, and no meaning. But as I am being reformed out of the ashes of this recking, I am trusting the Lord Jesus to ‘rebuild’ the neuronetwork of my numbed feelings so that I may be more what He has designed me to be.
Clearly, this is but the beginning of the “moment” of the wrecking/rebuilding process, but for the first time in as long as I can remember, I am looking forward to the next “moment” with Hope and not dread.
Main Text: —Ecclesiastes 11:10 — So, remove grief and anger from your heart and put away pain from your body, because childhood and the prime of life are fleeting. [NASB95]
Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts
Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. — Philippians 1:6 (NIV84)
May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. — Hebrews 13:20-21 (NIV84)
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands.— Psalm 138:8 (NIV84)
Heavenly Father, I humbly submit to the transforming work of Your Holy Spirit. I rest in the Peace that passes all understanding as I greet each moment and live in it for the glory of Your Son, Jesus. In His Name, Amen.