When I applied my heart to know wisdom … then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun.
We all like to have answers. In life’s endless uncertainty, and especially when the world or our own personal circumstances feel chaotic, we long for surety. Just think of all the experts to whom we look for guidance: medical experts, social experts, political experts, and so on. Yet while the proliferation of experts may be unique to our day, the quest for certainty is not. In every age, humans have searched for some kind of rhyme or reason to make sense of the grand events of history and the experiences of their individual lives.
We find an ancient example of this quest in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. Its writer shares with us his attempts to understand “all that is done under heaven,” applying his heart “to know wisdom and to know madness and folly” (Ecclesiastes 1:13, 17). Yet in the end, he concludes that “man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun.” Most people arrive at the same conclusion without so much effort—all we need is enough time to live our lives and to observe the world around us. The wise response to this truth is to humble ourselves and live by the light of God’s word. In other words, we acknowledge that while God does not permit us to know all we might want to know, He has given us all we need. Genuine humility admits, and even embraces, this limitation.
If we were to behold the fullness of all of God’s activity and purposes, it would be like looking up directly into a very bright sun. The light we are meant to live by is revealed in Scripture. It is the word of God that lights our path: “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130). It may not light all our surroundings, but it does light the way ahead—if we will walk in trust and obedience.
Rather than busying ourselves with what cannot be known, we need to come to the Scriptures humbly, expectantly, and consistently, so that we might discover the light it provides. We won’t understand life entirely, but we may understand it sufficiently, and so sing with William Cowper:
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.
This view of life under the sun is what will enable us to increasingly trust that God will, in His own time and in His own way, bring perfect order out of seeming confusion. He will use all of our circumstances to complete all of His purposes for all of eternity.
Topics: The Bible Christian Thinking Trusting God
1 William Cowper, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” (1774).
Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg,