1 These are the words of the Teacher, King David’s son, who ruled in Jerusalem.
2 “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!”
3 What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? 4 Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. 5 The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. 6 The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. 7 Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea. 8 Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.
9 History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. 10 Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. 11 We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.
Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 (NLT)
I watched a little spider weaving its web as I stood at the door in the garden center Thursday night. She (it is generally accepted that most spiders seen in webs are female) worked furiously for the hour I stood there. By the time I left there was a really extravagant web that ran in between two of the steel shelves. I was honestly impressed. When I went out to the garden center last night I immediately went over to where the little spider had been the night before. I was somewhat disheartened (but not surprised) to see no evidence of the web or of her (once again assuming she is indeed a she). She did reappear later that evening but didn’t seem to be working on a new web.
I don’t know anything about spiders other than they both impress me and creep me out. I assume they aren’t highly intelligent regardless of what Charlotte’s Web may lead us to think. However, I did wonder if the little lady was smart enough to know not to rebuild her web in that spot. It would just be torn down again no matter how hard she worked or how intricate it was. To sum it up, building a web there would be meaningless. That made me think of the passage I shared. That passage also came to mind earlier in the day when I heard the news that Linkin Park vocalist Chester Bennington had committed suicide. It may or may not be significant that he took his own life on what would have been his good friend Chris Cornell’s 53rd birthday. If you recall, Cornell committed suicide May 18 of this year. Both men were respected musicians in bands that sold a lot of records. On the surface they looked like they had it all.
Against my better judgement I popped Linkin Park’s 2000 debut album Hybrid Theory into the CD player as I drove to work Thursday afternoon. As I listened to an album I have heard thousands of times I was struck by how hopeless some of the lyrics sounded in light of the day’s events.
I find the answers aren’t so clear
Wish I could find a way to disappear
All these thoughts they make no sense
I find bliss in ignorance
Nothing seems to go away
Over and over again
Just like before
Everything you say to me
Takes me one step closer to the edge
And I’m about to break
I need a little room to breathe
‘Cause I’m one step closer to the edge
And I’m about to break
One Step Closer
I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter
I had to fall
To lose it all
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter
In The End
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a mental health professional so I can’t honestly speak to some things. As a songwriter I can’t even definitively say that those lyrics can be taken as an indication of suicidal thoughts. I have written some pretty dark and angst-filled stuff myself. Even King David got the blues sometimes and wrote about it. Try out Psalm 42 if you don’t believe me. Even the beloved Psalm 23 talks about walking through the valley of the shadow of death. The truth is that we all get down sometimes. We all have moments when we think this life is meaningless. King Solomon came right out and said it in Ecclesiastes when he wrote, “Everything is meaningless, completely meaningless.” Bennington suggested the same thing when he howled, “In the end it doesn’t even matter.” Perhaps my little arachnid friend thought the same thing when someone tore her web down.
Even those of us who put our faith and trust in Jesus have those moments. Let’s not pretend that anxiety and depression only afflict the faithless and the weak. I have witnessed first hand people who usually had much stronger faith than me go through dark times. I have watched people who historically encouraged me struggle and wonder how they were going to go on. It wasn’t that they no longer believed or trusted. It wasn’t that they stopped following God. They just had a hard time taking His hand and walking through that dark valley with Him. Sometimes we all do.
My heart genuinely breaks for those who think they have no other option. I don’t judge them for that. I can’t know the depth of their pain. Only God can. I do believe that God is there with them even if they can’t see it or feel it. I believe Jesus understands that pain and that anxiety and that level of hurt. If you don’t think he does ponder what he prayed in the garden right before he was arrested.
41 He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed,42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” 43 Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. 44 He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.
Luke 22:41-44 (NLT)
36 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” 37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Matthew 26:36-39 (NLT)
I really do believe we have a loving and merciful God and that He knows and understands what people are going through. He allowed these passages to be included in the Bible and I think He did that for our benefit, so we can know that He understands. I also believe that we can have hope. I believe the same Jesus who agonized in the garden later died on the cross, was buried, and then raised again. Because he did that, I can one day experience eternal life with him. That is where I find my hope and I’ll be honest, sometimes that’s the only thing that carries me through. There’s a song we’ve sung in church for as long as I can remember. The chorus goes like this.
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living, just because He lives
I am not ignorant or naive. I know that some people experience pain that cannot be soothed by the lyrics of a song or even by these words that I type. I do believe that pain can be soothed by the healing “touch” of Jesus. Unfortunately so many people lose hope and are swept away without ever feeling it. Some are wounded so badly that there just doesn’t seem to be any hope at all. We need to pray. We need to love people. We need to understand. We need to remove the stigma from anxiety and depression. We need to reach out and be the touch of Jesus for those who are hurting. We need to show them that this life doesn’t have to be meaningless.
May God our Father give you grace and peace.