Escaping Aggravation

What do you find aggravating?

For many, the myth of Sisyphus captures the essence of frustration. Sentenced to roll an immense boulder to the crest of a hill, he looked on helplessly as the task was reset over and over again.

Within Scripture, the imagery of frustration, frequently portrayed by the Old Testament prophets, involves fields and vineyards that will be laboriously watered with one’s sweat, only to see the fruit harvested by conquering enemies.

The book of Ecclesiastes opens with eleven verses of 360-degree madness: Circles upon circle upon circles:

  • Generations passing.
  • Sun rising and setting.
  • Winds blowing.
  • Seas filling and emptying.
  • Desires motivating and remaining.
  • Ingenuity creating and re-creating.

Solomon, the king of wisdom, makes an observation (1:14) that is equal parts of sour reflection and sober recognition: We are all belted to a merry-go-round. And minus some serious center of orientation, vanity spins on the horse beside us.

Said another way, we are all within inches of living very frustrated lives, existing in ways that feel akin to “chasing the wind”.  This is a path all-too-easily found.

This is why Ecclesiastes often seems so depressing, because here we have Solomon, gifted more wisdom and wealth, power and pleasure than perhaps any other man or woman in history, and HE (of all people) speaks fluently of the vanity of life.

But the careful reader of Ecclesiastes must not miss verses like Ecclesiastes 2:26:

“For to the one who pleases Him, God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner, he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God.”

The statement is not that life must be frustrating.  The statement is that life will be frustrating, to the extent that our goals and motivations are self-centered.  To the one bent on pleasing God, a path radically different from “vanity” opens itself wide.  It is a path where genuinely impacting learning takes place and where profound joy is tasted.

And it is a path readied for those eager to cast down self-imaged idols, in exchange for an existence centered around living out our parts as people bearing the Divine image.

And that is the opposite of vanity in every way.