Quick. Name the author who wrote the famous lines, "Vanity, vanity! All is vanity!"
If you said Solomon, the ancient king of Israel, you'd be right. It's the opening refrain from Ecclesiastes, uttered after Solomon goes on the ultimate road trip, searching the world for meaning and happiness. He goes on to describe his journeys and offers observations including, "A human being is no better off than an animal because life has no meaning for either. They are both going to the same place --- the dust." And, "In this world you find wickedness where justice and right ought to be ... If you love money you will never be satisfied; if you long to be rich, you will never get all you want. The richer you are, the more mouths you have to feed." For the most part, the book is a downer.
It would be tempting to skip over Ecclesiastes. To not delve into its hopelessness and wrestle with why it's part of Scripture. But as renowned bible teacher Charles Swindoll points out in his book, LIVING ON THE RAGGED EDGE, Ecclesiastes is as true and relevant and important today as it was thousands of years ago.
"Ecclesiastes has today's world woven through the fabric of every page. Whether or not we are willing to admit it, deep within most of us there is this restless, irresponsible, adventuresome itch. Deadlines and responsibilities grate at us. We find ourselves ready to run --- to escape into the back road of our memories, to travel down the blue highways of life under the sun. 'Surely, there I will find what it takes to fill the void.' Before we are able to crank up the car Solomon's advice brings us back to reality: 'Don't bother, it's a pipe dream, empty as a puff of smoke, lacking in substance. It may look like it's worth the effort, but don't bother, life without God under the sun is despair personified.'''
And that's the catch; life without God is worthless.
Still, Swindoll doesn't blithely skip to that part, spouting platitudes about God's goodness along the way. He doesn'