I just finished my Bible reading for today. (I’m using a Bible reading plan this year that has me reading ten chapters a day from ten different parts of of the Bible. I really like it because it keeps me on my toes, paying attention, but also provides variety and encourages comparison of different parts of the Scriptures.) Then I read this Baptist Standard article about Olympic gold medal snowboarder, Kelly Clark. The article quotes Clark:
“I started to understand that I didn’t get my worth from people or from the things that I did. . . . It was from Christ. If I hadn’t had that shift in my life, I think my world would have come crumbling down.”
Meaning and worth come from our identity in Christ. A lot of what I read in the Bible today indicates the same truth. In Judges, chapter 18, the nation of Israel has been a nation where “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” for a long time, maybe 400-500 years. The sin cycle of apostasy/punishment/repentance/deliverance repeats itself in the book of Judges over and over. And the final chapters of Judges are the culmination of all of those years of corruption and confusion, just full of idolatry, murder, civil war, and chaos. (Don’t even read chapter 19 of Judges unless you are ready to read about some horrible and triggering nastiness and evil.) There’s not much meaning or worth to be found in the final chapters of Judges—also, not much God to be found.
Next, I came to Solomon’s musings in Ecclesiastes, chapter 2. Solomon says he pursued pleasure and wisdom and everything his eyes desired. He worked hard to get and experience it all. And he concluded:
“For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind. . . . So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometime a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity, and a great evil. What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun?” ~Ecclesiastes 2:16-17, 20-22
What does it all mean? What is it all worth? Nothing, says Solomon, because it all ends—all the stuff disintegrates, and all the wisdom is forgotten, and all of the great artistic and scientific achievements are eventually dead or forgotten or superseded by something that will also be lost and forgotten eventually. And Ash Wednesday was set up to remind us of this truth. Memento mori; remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
So, what is it that keeps us from despair? Nothing. The only hope is from the hand of God says Solomon in verses 24-25. “For apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?”
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” ~Galatians 2:20
When a person turns away and rejects God through Christ his Son, that person falls first into idolatry, looking desperately for a God-substitute that will alleviate his or her restless need for deliverance and meaning. Then, perhaps comes simple blindness which says, “I don’t need a god. I don’t want God. I don’t need meaning or hope or anything else. I am self-sufficient.” But, finally, we all die; we all return to the dust from whence we came. And all of our works die with us. My only hope is to live by faith in the eternal Son of God, Jesus, who loved me and gave himself for me.
And that’s the one and only eternal Love worth remembering on this Valentine’s Day, the only Love that makes all of the other smaller loves in our lives worthwhile, meaningful, and worth celebrating.