He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than TO BE JOYFUL and to do good as long as they live, also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil – this is God’s gift to man.
I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been been, and God seeks what has been driven away.
– Ecclesiastes 3:11-15
When I first read this passage this morning I admit I felt that it seemed kind of patronizing of God. The Message words it like this, “True, God made everything beautiful in itself and it its time – but he’s left us in the dark so we can never know what God is up to, whether he is coming or going.” Well, thanks for that God. It seems so condescending of him.
We demand answers. We try to unravel mysteries. We want to know “why?!” We search for meaning beyond ourselves, and purpose to the events that unfold around us. We lose sleep over our choices and our options and the details. Or is this all just an INFJ thing? I can’t even count how many hours of lost sleep I have spent anxiously trying to figure out if I was following God’s call, or doing the right thing, or seeing what God was doing.
As I continued to ponder these verses I began to see the actual peace that can come from surrendering to God’s control. If God is in control, then how can we not be joyful? We, his creation, cannot fathom what he is doing – in us, in the world – so why not rest in that instead of rail against it? We drive ourselves crazy trying to pick apart the weaving of the tapestry, instead of enjoying the beauty of it.
Right here it says that there is nothing better to do than to “be joyful and do good.” If I truly believe that God is in control, that He is at work in the world, that what He does endures forever – then that should translate into my actions in the way I live my life. How simple and refreshing it sounds to know that the best thing I can do is be joyful and do good. Why do I complicate it?
When my kids are bickering and frustrating me – can I trust that God is ultimately doing His work in their hearts and approach my discipline of them with joy instead of frustration? When my husband and I disagree – can I trust that God knows the outcome of our marriage and move toward reconciliation with joy? When I am overwhelmed with the things I need to do for my job – can I trust that God’s work is being done, what will be will be, and joyfully move on to doing the next task in front of me.
I like to control things. I like for things to work the way that I imagine is best. Here’s the thing – thinking that I control things doesn’t bring joy. It brings stress, anxiety, and the need to manipulate others to get the outcome I desire. It also creates a need to worship myself and my efforts rather than God. Trust in God’s control brings rest and joy. The outcome doesn’t depend on me. If I trust in God’s control than I can do my part to the best of my ability and then let – it – go. I can celebrate other’s accomplishments instead of being jealous or self-pitying. I can do the work that I know that God has given me to do with passion instead of comparing myself to others and working out of insecurity.
I’ve also concluded that whatever God does, that’s the way it is going to be, always. No addition, no subtraction. God’s done it and that’s it. That’s so we’ll quit asking questions and simply worship in holy fear. (The Message)
In short, trusting that God has done what He will do means that I can stop needing to perform for approval or acceptance either from Him or from others. Being freed from the need to perform brings rest and joy.
I realize that this is all easier said than done. I am a person who holds on to control pretty tightly, sometimes at the cost of relationships. Sometimes at the cost of my health. Definitely at the cost of enjoying and delighting in life. But I think I am seeing growth in this area. Over the past few years I have experienced peace and a greater enjoyment of life when certain circumstances were out of my control and I practiced just doing what I could do one day at a time. It felt completely counter-intuitive to me at the time, and it was a definite spiritual muscle that needed to be strengthened. God is maturing me in this area little by little.
In what areas of your life would a deeper acceptance of God’s control bring joy?