Irony is just honesty with the volume cranked up. ~ George Saunders
Two things in life constantly remind me of God’s humor: flatulence and irony. And let’s face it, both can stink sometimes!
Last week, I used my new car as an example of how pleased we are when things work (see “Your So Vain” post). The benefits of enduring quality are priceless. I mean, imagine a car, or your body, or even our world not breaking down!
That’s better than what Disneyland can offer! Don’t get me wrong, I love the magical kingdom, but I don’t want magic. I want a problem-free existence.
But “under the sun,” as Solomon puts it in Ecclesiastes, all of reality is transitory. Everything has an expiration because all is broken. Well, guess what broke five days after my last post???
C’mon, you can do better than that.
Okay, I will just tell you…it was my car!
Now, I’m a follower of Jesus who is pretty familiar with the Scriptures and I attempt to apply them every day the best I can, but when my car didn’t start Friday I immediately thought, “What the…? This isn’t supposed to happen. Um yeah, I really don’t have time for this.”
And to add insult to injury (if I can honestly call it that), I learned that my mechanic for the past two years is no longer mobile! My car was broken at home and he will no longer come to me. So my weekend’s purpose was quickly revealed: find a new mechanic and get my new, trustworthy car fixed.
Lesson learned: don’t publicly share how great things are going lol. Or really I should just learn to believe what I write — “All is vanity,” or temporary (see Ecclesiastes 1:2).
Now, if all is truly “vanity,” as Solomon suggests, then a natural question is, “What does man gain by all the toil (work, effort, stress, etc.) at which he toils under the sun?” (1:3) If my car will never last, what am I gaining from all my toil to try and prove otherwise?
The question is rhetorical for I really gain nothing except for more toil (which seems to have an indirect relationship to my time and money!). My car will pass, my work and all it materially produces will pass, and ultimately my life itself will pass. (1:4)
This is the predictable cycle of life in our world. (1:5-7, 9-10) And it is SO exasperating that no words would suffice. (1:8)
I admitted a moment ago that I desire a problem-free existence. There is some selfishness swimming in that statement, but honestly, I just wish life would go the way it is supposed to go! I wish my cars wouldn’t break down, that my extended family got along better, that I didn’t have to leave my family to love them, that Christians didn’t hurt me or those I love, that my first son wouldn’t have critical health challenges, and on and on it goes.
You name it, and we all can probably find a problem with it. Maybe your car didn’t break recently, but what about your relationships? Your bank account? What about your heart? Your trust? What about your dreams? Your self-worth and image?
As much as it pains me to say, in this world there is no escape from brokenness. No amount of hiding, drinking, using, denying, manipulating, lying, etc. cannot bypass this bitter cup we must all drink.
A.W. Tozer once wrote, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” And it seems as if those who love Him the most are probably those who are shattered the most. None of us can avoid it, and following God sometimes seems to even invite this target on the back!
The cyclical and predictable nature of brokenness is perhaps the most agreed upon reality in our world. It’s caused people to keep from putting money in the bank to resisting the desire to get married or have children. Something must rescue us from this cosmic paralysis! Something outside this broken world, this “under the sun” reality of smoke.
Solomon hints at the answer in Ecclesiastes 3:11. Nature cannot resolve nature; we must get out of the system and Solomon suggests looking to eternity, a reality external to being caught “under the sun.” It’s both the signal and solution for this world epidemic. For the Christian, this is the ultimate hope, and it’s not just for hipsters! (Rev. 21:1-8)
More on this to come…
In closing, where do you see brokenness/vanity in your life? Do you believe that you can find relief from the same place all our woes emanate? How does eternity (getting out from “under the sun”) help you face brokenness?
If your life has ever felt chaotic like a storm, please take a moment to enjoy this song that ironically describes God’s ferocious love for us as a storm.