Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.
History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now. (NLT)
Not exactly the most cheerful passage in the Scriptures! Like much of the book it is taken from, this text is a sobering reminder of the transience of mortal life, of the limits of human understanding and accomplishment. And if we conclude that it was written by King Solomon, such reflections are surprising. After all, Solomon certainly accomplished much.
These words are understandable overstatement, and yet strike a chord in us. We aim to get something for ourselves, enjoy it for a time, but then realise we want more. There is ongoing restlessness. We are confronted with new technologies, new ideologies, and yet the same old human problems persist. A new phone doesn’t fix the broken family relationship; the new party in power doesn’t solve the problems of injustice and conflict.
The writer seems to despair of there being any value to any of our work. Why bother? Then again, he writes from the standpoint of our leaving God out of the picture. Bring God in, and things change. God can bring about new things; God can bring meaning to what we say and do; God can give satisfaction which material things can’t give.
Such a text and such a book throw a bucket of cold water over those who reckon life without God is true life. Life without God falls short of true life.