I think most of us are familiar with the Proverbs 31 woman, that quite unattainable checklist of things every woman has to live up to. Early to rise, works late into the night, successful, wise, put together, children and husband love her, the community honors her. I mean, we probably add a few more descriptors to this ideal woman (looks perfect running errands, has thousands of followers on social media, flies through any struggle with grace and poise).
And I know that there are theories about this described woman – that it was multiple women or a tribute to a particular woman recognizing her and honoring her at a special moment in her life (cause we really don’t list flaws at that event, right?) But, there is another book in the Bible that both seems more relatable and challenging to me that I thought I would share.
I’m not saying that as a woman I should go around saying everything is meaningless (although if you have ever tried to keep a house clean despite its occupants, the word might have passed through your mind). But it’s what the writer means by calling it all meaningless.
The writer is saying that it’s meaningless because we are doing it with the wrong motivation. We are simply chasing after the wind.
We can be wise, successful, rich, and experience everything this world has to offer, but if we live just to be wise, successful, rich and experienced, then what’s the point?
Social media is a really great example. It’s really easy to get caught up in the likes and follows and comments, allowing them to feed validation. And then there is just the mindless scrolling or the outrage posts that seem to eat away at our time and energy. It’s where we low key (or sometimes outright) brag about our accomplishments, family milestones, amazing trips, and new toys. I’m not referring to family updates, but you know what I mean about the brag or humble brag I’m talking about. Meaningless! Meaningless!
But social media isn’t always meaningless. I mean, most of you are reading this post because you probably saw a link on my social media. Social media is ultimately a tool, just like the things listed in Ecclesiastes – riches, labor/toil, wisdom, pleasure, etc. But it’s what we do with them, it’s why we do what we do with them that changes the meaning of them.
If I am successful just because it makes me feel good and that success becomes my identity, I am more likely to sacrifice other things in order to maintain or increase that success. And a big sacrifice that I can make to attain some status or accomplishment is my relationship with others. One of the points in Ecclesiastes talks about how important relationships are.
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12
I think it’s really interesting that the chapter before he talks about how important relationships are, there is this whole section about a time for everything.
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.Ecclesiastes 3:2-8
If this doesn’t speak to my own case of FOMO (fear of missing out), I don’t know what will. The writer seems to be saying, “Chill, your time will come. You may be in a season of war, mourning or tearing down, but that season will pass and you will experience a season of peace, dancing and building up.” I get so focused on holding on to the tools God has given me to try to protect myself from any pain or discomfort in my life that I forget what gifts that pain can give me. Compassion. Understanding. The ability to dive into the nooks and crannies of other people’s lives because I have literally been there.
That’s how I see the loss of my daughters. I didn’t want to lose them, but I see the gift that loss can give. The greatest gift is giving purpose to my pain. So that it’s not meaningless. It can help others to see hope in their own lives. We aren’t meant to live as islands, and when we understand we are meant for relationship, we don’t have to fear because we aren’t going to go through it alone. We have each other, and most importantly, we have a God willing to walk through it with us. I think that ultimately, that is the beauty of what this life is all about.
Our success, riches, labor, pleasure, experiences, everything given to us is meant to glorify God and uplift others. The harder we hold on to these to build ourselves up or use them as a security blanket, the more meaningless it can get. Life is about using whatever God has given us to love others, to boost them up and encourage them. And that, in my opinion, is far from meaningless.