Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Malaise

 Ecclesiastes 1:2-10a

Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hurries to the place where it rises. The wind blows to the south, and goes around to the north; round and round goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they continue to flow. All things are wearisome; more than one can express; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, or the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, "See, this is new"? 

Nora came into my office and sat down, wearily. She said, "When you said on Sunday that you were tired, that really resonated with me!" We spoke about how we are just not able to find the energy we once had. The joy in life is harder and harder to find. I attended the Byberg Preaching Workshop and sat with 80 other rostered leaders, and we all agreed, that we are tired.

This malaise (a general feeling of discomfort, illness, or uneasiness whose exact causer is difficult to identity) is certainly attached to the trauma of a three year pandemic. But, also, before the pandemic we were talking about the radical changes already at work on us. The coupling of these realities has settled into our bones, I think. It has stubbornly stuck to our emotions and has glued us to the floor.

Scripture sure understands this reality. The beginning of the writings of Ecclesiastes certainly knocks it home for me. Vanity (the quality of being worthless or futile) seems to be a good companion to malaise. If what the author is saying is true then what are we to do? If what we does not matter, than what is all this about? There is nothing new under the sun!

Thankfully the author does not leave us to wallow. She turns quickly to reminding us that the pursuit of worldly wealth, fame, power and honor will lead us all to a dire life. Instead, find a way to enjoy life. Our call just may be to love our God with all our heart, mind and soul and our neighbor as our selves. That is, to discover joy and love in each other. To embrace differences. To shout out the beauty in all of us even in the midst of trying times. 

I am not sure that this is helpful or not. I am just trying to move forward in this life that God has given me.

Ecclesiastes 9:7: Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has long ago approved what you do.