“‘Absolute futility,’ says the Teacher. ‘Absolute futility. Everything is futile’” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, CSB).
The words from my morning quiet time (that had unfortunately been cut short) echoed through my mind as I stood in a long line, tapping the strap of my purse and straining to glimpse what was happening at the front of the store. I checked the time on my phone, sighed loudly, and scrolled the to-do list in my Notes app. I don’t have time for this today, I thought, This is absolutely futile!
When the Teacher penned the book of Ecclesiastes, he would not have understood the concept of the internet. But if he had, I’m positive he would have agreed with me that the hours of my day I spent trying to fix our internet that had been knocked out during a storm were utterly meaningless. After a lengthy visit to my internet provider’s store, several calls to my husband, and a frustrating online chat box, I sat down at my computer in the afternoon to finally get to work. But as I lifted my fingers to type, only two words came to mind.
The feeling where you have been busy all day yet have accomplished nothing.
The never-ending cycle of dishes.
The toys that are put back in their baskets only to be dumped out five minutes later.
The endless email inbox alerts.
The toddler who ignores the same instructions over and over.
When I collapsed exhausted on the couch at 7:23 p.m., I felt like my day was meaningless. That it was in vain I had tried to bring order to life, my home, my children, and my work. My Bible still sat on the couch from that morning, open to the book of Ecclesiastes. I let my tired eyes continue down the page to the second chapter.
“For what does a person get with all his work and all his efforts that he labors at under the sun? … Even at night, his mind does not rest. This too is futile” (Ecclesiastes 2:22-23, CSB).
I let out an exhausted laugh—my cat jerking up his head from my lap at the sudden noise—and asked myself the same question. What do I get after a long day taking care of my family and my ministry? Will my mind ever experience true rest at night? I soothed my cat and my anxious mind and kept on reading. Turning the page, the words of the Teacher, inspired by the Holy Spirit, filled my restless heart and mind with hope.
“I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and enjoy the good life” (Ecclesiastes 3:12, CSB). Our Creator God knew this world would be temporary, yet he chose to give us glimpses of his beauty, goodness, and love in it anyway. While our work on earth will always be defined by the curse of sin, we find hope in our Savior who redeems every broken part of our story—and every futile moment our day. He invites us to join in his work to make all things new, and that starts with the ordinary moments of our life.
God’s gift to man is to take joy in our work, even work that seems futile (Ecclesiastes 3:13-14). I can let go of the need to be recognized by the world (or even my husband and children) for doing important work each day. I can trust that God is doing something eternal through each email sent, each basket of laundry folded, each mundane errand completed—even the long hour spent in line at the internet provider’s store.
I can look back on my full yet monotonous day in awe of the God who works in and through my weary efforts. I can rest, knowing that God will take each ordinary task and use it to bring his Kingdom a little closer to fruition. I can rejoice to know my temporary work is a small part of his grand story. And I can trust in the God whose work lasts forever.
I closed my Bible and took a long exhale. Tomorrow will be full of more seemingly futile tasks, but I can work with joy believing that each task does not rest in my own finite hands, but in the infinite hands of my Creator God (Ecclesiastes 9:1). My family, my ministry, my home, and my life all have meaning when I am walking in the good work God has prepared for me (Ephesians 2:10).
2 thoughts on “Absolute Futility￼”
Bethany, this resonates with me even without a season of small children under foot. Thanks.
Chuck Webb Children’s Minister/ Church Administrator Wilsonville Baptist Church firstname.lastname@example.org 205.965.2455