The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes has a sobering beginning; “vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” The pointless nature of life is described with austere beauty: “all streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full,” and “all the deeds that are done under the sun…[are a] chasing after the wind.” The author of this book (traditionally King Solomon) appears to have reached the outer limits of cynicism, hopelessness, and despair.
But can we yet find good news in this vanity? Is there a trace of joy, a glimpse of the empty tomb even in the midst of this overwhelming loss of purpose?
All things people do for themselves are marked and concluded by a vain struggle for knowledge and recognition, ending with the eventual grave and forgotten name. Solomon has it right, if we do things for ourselves and by ourselves, we are simply chasing after the wind. The magnificent flip-side is that all things done humbly through, for, and by the spirit of Christ in God end in glory.
All is vanity, except our life with Christ.