does half-full work anymore?

I am a half-full kind of guy.  I am optimistic about meeting new people or going to social gatherings.  I think the stock market will go up.  I think I am capable of more than I actually am. 

Recently I read a book on Ecclesiastes titled Living Life Backwards.  I was drawn to the title because it reminded me of Stephen Covey’s principle  to ‘begin with the end in mind.’  I like to think of myself as intentional and purposeful.  It was very impactful, but when I started the book I didn’t know it was about Ecclesiastes.

I don’t know about you, but I was never drawn to Ecclesiastes.  I don’t like how it starts, and I don’t want to work hard enough for it to make sense.  But three weeks ago, I felt the Spirit nudge me to camp out there for a while.

The words of the Teacher, son of David, king of Jerusalem: “Meaningless, meaningless!” says the Teacher.  “Utterly meaningless!  Everything is meaningless.”  What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? (Ecclesiastes 1:1-3)

There are a lot of Americans today who are asking that last question: What do I gain from all my labors?  Restaurants are closing, businesses are on the edge, and many workers are being laid off or “furloughed.”  I have several friends who are trying to take care of their employees, all the while wondering how long they can survive.

Years and years of hard work are in danger of going down the drain.

Others face that question as we look at our retirement accounts.  Six weeks ago, I felt pretty good about being retired.  Today, I feel like so much hard work has evaporated.

Solomon, or whomever penned Ecclesiastes, opens with strong and uncomfortable words.  “Meaningless” is only one translation.  “Vaporous” (as in evaporate) is another.  There is a strong sense of something that disappears or proves itself to be without substance or durability.

And the author declares that everything is without substance or durability, nothing lasts.  All of my life—and yours—is ephemeral.  Our works and our efforts disappear without meaning. That sure touches at least one of my big fears, that I really don’t matter.  And it seems like the author is telling me that in a season where I fear that even more than normal.

Covid-19 and social distancing, a crashing stock market and an uncertain job market, friends whom I can’t see, and work that I can’t do all stir some big fears in me.  And it feels like the author has his/her finger on the pulse of that feeling.

Is my life a vapor?  Does it have meaning?

I invite you on a journey with me into Ecclesiastes.  I am trusting in the author of Scripture that the words that follow will be His words, and will take me—and maybe us—places He would want us to go.


Check back here next week for the second of three posts on this topic.



Palmer Trice is an ordained Presbyterian minister.  He is married to Lynne, has three children and has been in Charlotte since 1979. In his spare time, Palmer enjoys golf, tennis, walking and reading.

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