I started re-reading an interesting book this morning. It is the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes. Wedged between the Biblical books of Proverbs (A book filled with Wisdom) and the Song of Solomon (A book filled with Passion), the book of Ecclesiastes is a unique collection of, what seems like, discouragement. Penned by Solomon, regarded as the wisest man on earth (not to mention the wealthiest), this gathering of thoughts comes across quite glum. People have struggled with the content of this book throughout time. Ancient Hebrews used to debate its meaning and whether it should even be included in the canon of Scripture. Maybe the endless debate has been due to the delivery, but, then again, perhaps the author himself causes the debate. When one considers the source of these words, it is hard to discount the author as unauthoritative. When faced with what he would choose to receive from God, rather than fame or fortune, Solomon chose wisdom. He was brilliant and insightful, and yet he makes sweeping statements in this book that would suggest life as we know it as a grand waste of time. What does this have to do with grief? It has all the world to do with it actually. The first chapter of Ecclesiastes speaks directly of the subject in a way that is relevant to both you and me. I want to quote to you today a portion of Scripture from The Maxwell Leadership Bible, which is written in the New King James Version. The heading above this particular portion of writing is labeled “The Grief of Wisdom.” This is what the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 1:12-18:
12 I, the Preacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised. 14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.
15 What is crooked cannot be made straight,
And what is lacking cannot be numbered.
16 I communed with my heart, saying, “Look, I have attained greatness, and have gained more wisdom than all who were before me in Jerusalem. My heart has understood great wisdom and knowledge.” 17 And I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is grasping for the wind.
18 For in much wisdom is much grief,
And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
I was particularly taken by Verse 18. “For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases in knowledge increases in sorrow.” What a heavy statement! It is reminiscent of the old adage “Ignorance is bliss.” Here is a very real fact – the world is full of problems, pain and panic. There is widespread panic globally over things that do not register on the radar of many who will stumble across this article. In our North American culture we have a variety of very real struggles. Our economy is floundering, unemployment continues in record proportion, and the housing market that was once our greatest investment continues to plummet as foreclosures mount. We have some very real holes to climb out of as a nation. The word I want to share with you today though is perspective. We tend to see our lives through the perspective of our problems. We view the scene through our struggles. If you are unemployed, you are agitated about the plight of unemployment in America. If you’ve lost your home to foreclosure, you are animate about the plummeting housing market and the lack of any solution in sight. If you have a sick child but no health insurance, you are championing the potential of a new health care system that will enable any American to gain access to affordable health care. Your problems create your perspective and your perspective is compounded by your problems. Here is what I want you to think about though today – what if your perspective is skewed? What if your problems really aren’t that major? They seem major, but in reality they are actually quite manageable. I’m not discounting your struggles by any means. I’ve been unemployed and it is really difficult. I have had a home lose all of its value in just a few short months and been forced to short sell it, my credit is still ruined by that to this day, and it is embarrassing. I’ve had sick kids with no health insurance and had to make tough choices on whether to buy medicine or food, and it was more than frustrating. They were real problem, but in truth, they were manageable. How can I say that? Because I am still here, and so are you. Perspective. What if you had some of the problems that the rest of the world has though? What if you had NO clean water? What if you had NO food? What if your kids were in danger of dying today from one of the thousands of things that kids die from around the world everyday? Perspective. Consider this:
20 children die of hunger-related issues every minute
1 in 6 people have no access to safe drinking water
Half of the population of the world lives on less than $2/day
Every 30 seconds a child dies of Malaria
2.5 Million people are victims of Human Trafficking
Perspective. I am heart broken over unemployment. I wish your house were worth more. I am devastated that there are any children in American that do not have health care. But, I am grateful that everyone I know, in fact everyone I have ever known, has access to the basic necessities of life. I am grateful that in this great country we live in, even the poorest of people is making more than billions of people in the international community. Perspective. The more I learn about the plight of the world’s population the more I grieve. Again, to quote Solomon, “For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.”
Today, your world may be falling in around you. Your struggles are tough and they are real, but ultimately they are manageable. Ultimately, you are blessed. What is your struggle today? Can you approach it from a different angle? I encourage you to do your very best to change your perspective today.