Vanity of vanities: finding the meaning of life

By Andrew Packer
Special to The PREVIEW
How do I find meaning in this life? How do I find contentment in this life? These questions are at the heart of the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon wrestles with these questions throughout the entire book.
This theme is addressed in the motto of the book: “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” (1:2).
This picturesque language does not indicate everything is meaningless. The picture is like that of a puff of breath on a cold day (or picture yourself trying to catch smoke in your hand). It is insubstantial and fleeting, not “meaningless.”
The idea expressed here is the fleeting or transitory nature of life. Like a vapor, it doesn’t last. This is not a statement about the meaninglessness of everything, but rather the temporary nature of life “under the sun.”
This vanity is not about the things themselves, but about the human heart, which abuses things to its own disadvantage. The heart is never content with present things and is always longing for more. When we get what we strive for, dissatisfaction sets in almost right away. The Bible says this is vanity.
John puts it this way: “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:17).
The world and all of its promises (wealth, happiness, security, etc.) and even all our works are passing away. They are here one day and gone the next. But the one does the will of God is not “vanity,” instead they live forever.
And what is the will of God? “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:40).
It is the will of God that you quit trying to make the temporary things of this world the main thing of your life. That is, quit looking for your identity, your security and life’s meaning in the stuff of this world (the Bible calls this idolatry). Turn from these things and look to Jesus. Your life finds its meaning, you find your identity and security, in Jesus Christ alone.
How do I find meaning in this life? How do I find contentment in this life? Only in Jesus, the only Son of God. In Christ, even the things of this world that are passing away can have meaning and be enjoyed the way God intended us to enjoy them. In Christ, it is possible to find meaning and contentment in our daily lives.

This story was posted on May 3, 2018.