Ecclesiastes literally means, “preacher,” “teacher,” or “gatherer.” I especially like the term, “gatherer.” It’s like the teacher is on a quest, searching for clues or proof that there is meaning to life. He is gathering bits and pieces of evidence, trying to find a reason for living! And he often comes up empty.
The gatherer begins his book with the words, “Everything is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2) He finds futility in wisdom, pleasure, work, political power and wealth. He addresses the injustices, ironies and uncertainties of life… and the reality of death. In the end, he concludes that the only meaning for life is to fear God and obey His commands. (Ecclesiastes 12:13) God is the center of anything meaningful in life.
In chapter 4, the gatherer observes with great sadness those who are isolated and oppressed, for they have no one to comfort them. Again, he observes a lonely rich man who has worked hard and established much wealth. Now, no one values hard work and good stewardship more than my generation of baby boomers. But how meaningless and depressing to amass a sizable estate and to have not a single loved one to pass it on to.
The gatherer continues to expound on the value of community. Not only can we comfort one another during times of oppression and bless each other in family relationships, but in 4:9, he shares how we can help each other succeed. And if one of us falls, the other can help her up. We can even share warmth—not just body heat, but also hospitality and the warmth of community. Additionally, a person standing alone can be attacked and easily defeated, but “two can stand back-to-back and conquer.” Top it all off with the person of Jesus, and you have a triple-braided cord that is not easily broken. Jesus brings a strength and unity to our relationships that create an unbreakable bond. How grateful I am for those kinds of bonds in my life.
Reaching out to family, friends, neighbors and my church family has saved my sanity. Early morning chats with my husband is a great source of strength, comfort, and a firm foundation for me. I need truth-tellers in my life.
Now, don’t get me wrong, relationships are messy—even when Jesus is the center. And sometimes it’s tempting to pull away and do life on my own. But friends, it’s not worth it! I know that from experience! It’s too dangerous to try and walk this journey alone. We have an enemy who prowls around like a lion seeking someone to devour! We must press on through the mess. We must have grace and forgiveness for one another. We must speak the hard truth to each other and accept the wounds of a friend. Because the time will come when you need comfort, a hand up, the warmth of family and friends. And yes, you will even face the attack of the enemy. At those times, you’ll be glad you pushed through any difficulties in your relationships. You’ll be relieved to see the outstretched hand, feel the warm hug, and experience the prayer warrior battling on your behalf. Remember the words of the gatherer when you are tempted to go it alone. Reach out, press on, forgive, ask for forgiveness. Do whatever it takes to build and maintain authentic, healthy discipling relationships. You’re going to need them!