Sometimes I feel a lot like King Solomon must have felt when he wrote Ecclesiastes. " 'Meaningless! Meaningless!' says the Teacher. 'Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.' " (Ecclesiastes 1:2) Solomon complains that there is "nothing new under the sun." We receive no lasting benefit from our toil, and all of us—the righteous and the wicked, the wise and the foolish—will arrive at the same fate. All of us are subject to misfortune and all of us will die. We will not be remembered when we are gone, and nothing we've worked for will last. Everything we try to do for ourselves is merely "chasing after the wind."
King Solomon had an amazing life. He was Israel's richest and wisest king, and he accomplished many things during his reign. Yet, he saw this work and even all of his pleasures as having no lasting meaning. I too have a comfortable life and a decent job, but I still feel like a hamster on a wheel. I go to work and I pay my bills, but what am I really achieving? What is the point? Is my life meaningless?
I think the answer is both yes and no. Solomon wrote that only God is capable of creating a lasting legacy. Our labors really are meaningless compared to God's. My life has no meaning on its own, but God can use His power to give it meaning. Solomon wrote that the best thing we can hope for is to eat and drink and enjoy our labor, even if it is meaningless, but only God can grant us that enjoyment. If we simply evaluate our own work, we will never be satisfied because everything we do is meaningless on the surface. If we consider our work as toil in service of God, however, then we can find enjoyment and peace in what we do. God will transform our work into something greater and weave it into His grand master plan. On our own, we can do nothing, but we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
It's hard to understand how my boring life could have meaning. Sometimes it's easy to think that I am utterly replaceable, that nothing I do is unique or essential. Nothing new under the sun. Still, God endowed me with this personality and these skills and put me into this life for a reason. What I do may be meaningless to everyone else, but apparently it matters to God. Solomon was wise, but God is even wiser. Perhaps Solomon saw his work as meaningless, but his words on the page are still helping people like me today, thousands of years after he died. Likewise, I cannot know all the ways in which I make a difference in the world around me. I might have said or done things that people will carry with them for the rest of their lives. My job may seem mundane, but I might write an article someday that convinces a brilliant young person to come to my alma mater, receive a first-class education, and go on to change the world. No matter how wise I am, I cannot accurately rate the meaning of my own life. Only God can do that.
If the purpose of my life is to chase after the wind, so be it. Perhaps Solomon would call that meaningless because, after all, you can't catch the wind. I can't take anything I earn here on Earth with me to Heaven, but perhaps the value is in the toil itself, not the spoils. Perhaps the greatest meaning is to be found in doing the work we've been given to do simply out of the joy of serving God. If God means for me to be here doing this work with these people, then I will do it with all my heart. If chasing after the wind is my destiny, then let me do it with joy—that then will be the meaning.