I witnessed an almost-car wreck today. Across the street a car was preparing to turn right. To the left was the top of a hill, and you could only see cars coming as they crested the hill. However, there was enough distance between the crest and where the car was getting on the road that, as long as you didn’t see a car, you had plenty of time (I know this intersection well).
However, just as the car was turning, another car came over the top of the hill at about twice the posted speed limit. The first car managed to swerve into the other lane of the two lane road to narrowly escape being smashed as the second car honked their horn loudly.
After I let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding, my first thought was, If that had been a wreck, who would have been at fault? Would it be the person who turned out into traffic or the one who was traveling at a high rate of speed? The first driver was doing his due diligence and should have been perfectly safe pulling out into traffic, but because the other driver was not following the rules, it was not safe at all.
In my ministry, I’ve found that it’s not the problems, pain and disasters that we’ve brought upon ourselves through our own choices that generate the most bitterness in people (although they definitely make their mark). It’s situations like the near miss I witnessed today–when it’s not a miss. Those times when someone has done all the right things and acted in good faith, but ends up broke, broken or bent because another person (or group of persons) did the wrong thing. It’s pain exacerbated by the unfairness of it all. It’s hurt made worse by the senselessness of things. I mean, really. What’s the point of being faithful and moral if it’s not going to do us any good?
In those times when life seems unfair, totally random and rather meaningless, there’s one book in the Bible that really keeps it real–Ecclesiastes. It’s a short book–just 12 chapters–so I encourage you to give it a read, but here are some of the highlights.
Everything doesn’t happen for a reason.
Here’s another thing that happens on earth that is pointless: the righteous get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked get what the righteous deserve. I say that this too is pointless.Ecclesiastes 8:14 CEB
I have seen everything in my pointless lifetime: the righteous person may die in spite of their righteousness; then again, the wicked may live long in spite of their wickedness.Ecclesiastes 7:15
We’re not going to answer every question and solve every mystery about life. We’re not God.
When I determined to load up on wisdom and examine everything taking place on earth, I realized that if you keep your eyes open day and night without even blinking, you’ll still never figure out the meaning of what God is doing on this earth. Search as hard as you like, you’re not going to make sense of it. No matter how smart you are, you won’t get to the bottom of it.Ecclesiastes 8:17 The Message
Enjoy what you have today, because tomorrow…who knows?
The author of Ecclesiastes was an early adopter of mindfulness. Over and over in the book, he encourages us to enjoy what we have right now.
I know that there’s nothing better for them but to enjoy themselves and do what’s good while they live.Ecclesiastes 3:12 CEB
After looking at the way things are on this earth, here’s what I’ve decided is the best way to live: Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. And that’s about it. That’s the human lot. Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work. It’s God’s gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now. It’s useless to brood over how long we might live.Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 The Message
When life is unfair, when nothing is going right and everything seems pointless, the book of Ecclesiastes is there for us. Affirming and validating our feelings (which, in itself, is comforting) and reminding us that all of this life is just temporary–the bad as well as the good.
Oh, how sweet the light of day,Ecclesiastes 11:7-8
And how wonderful to live in the sunshine!
Even if you live a long time, don’t take a single day for granted.
Take delight in each light-filled hour,
Remembering that there will also be many dark days
And that most of what comes your way is smoke.
Oh, and BTW, through all of it, the God who created us is right there with us…and when this enigma of life is over, that’s who we get to go and live with.
Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer is an online, inclusive and progressive Christian community. Follow us on Facebook and get emails to keep up with all that is happening.