Ecclesiastes 7:14 (NRSV)
14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider; God has made the one as well as the other, so that mortals may not find out anything that will come after them. (Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future. (NIV)
Did you ever “connect the dots”? In a coloring book or on activity page—with a crayon, pencil or other writing utensil?
There is something so satisfying about this activity. Now, you can buy books of adult connect the dot pages where the dots number up into the 1000’s. That’s a lot of dots!
When connecting the dots we focus on the next goal (the numbered dot), but more intently we focus on the line that reaches from one dot to the next. Straight lines between dots create more pleasing final pictures.
And there are similarities in life. We look for a straight path from goal to goal—which we are not always able to follow. Life happens, we stray, priorities change, and even the goals can change—they are dynamic—like life. The dots, or goals, are bold—they tend to mark time, or at least expectation–yet goals, like life, are dynamic. The line is usually (compared to the dots) more subtle, gentle, modest. It doesn’t draw as much attention to itself as the dots, perhaps because it recognizes that it is part of something greater than itself.
In the “connect the dots of life” there are few guarantees about what the final picture will reveal. Ecclesiastes reminds us that the constant surrounding the paths, the goals, the dynamic nature of the human experience and the ultimate masterpiece is God. The triune God who loves us beyond reason, beyond dots, beyond lines, beyond our own imagination of our masterpiece.
So, what is our response?
Solomon wrote this bit of Ecclesiastes, probably is his older years. It is an invitation to live in the moment and not toil with the future. So, what is this joy that is pervasive? That doesn’t just reside in the dots, the goals, the “happy little high notes”?
Tevya, the main character in Fiddler on the Roof, a poor Jewish milkman living in czarist Russia—trying to marry off his five daughters, sings “To Life!” or l’chiam!
God would like us to be joyful
Even when our hearts lie panting on the floor…
…To life, to life, l’chaim!
Even when our hearts lie panting on the floor! Yes! My heart has been there…and worse—it’s been thrown over the fence where the neighbor’s pet kangaroo jumps up and down on it. Ugh!
But, in days of prosperity and adversity, in days when our dreams are imagined and days when our greatest disappointments loom, in days when we get (it goes) our way and in days when we feel invisible—God is there. Joy is the settled assurance that God is always there. Joy is the quiet confidence that all will be well. Joy is the determined choice to praise God at all times.
Joy is an attitude of the heart and spirit. It is present inside of us and is an untapped reservoir of potential. It is possible to feel joy in difficult times—actually it is necessary. Joy doesn’t need a smile in order to exist—although it does feel better with one. Joy can share its space with other emotions—sadness, shame or anger.
Joy is a choice purposefully made.
Claim joy in the name of God who loves you, Christ who redeems you, and the Holy Spirit that sends you out. Look forward to your dots, your goals, your dreams, AND sharpen your crayons and your pencils to draw the lines, to walk the paths, to live in the fullness of the time you are granted—in relationship with God and in relationship with others, so that you may glow with the light of Christ in a world that too often leaves the lights off.
Joy is yours.
Thanks be to God
– Heidi K. Greenwood Doell