Better is the end of a thing than its beginning,
and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
9 Be not quick in your spirit to become angry,
for anger lodges in the heart[b] of fools.
10 Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
11 Wisdom is good with an inheritance,
an advantage to those who see the sun.
12 For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money,
and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.
13 Consider the work of God:
who can make straight what he has made crooked?
I was watching a video by Anna Willemstein called “Continue Devotional: Persevering Through.” She mentions seeds in this video, referring to the seeds we sow as we persevere through adversity. It had me pondering the past five years in which I have felt like I was constantly persevering through adversity.
Thorns and Weeds
Much of my perseverance was consumed by college and family trials. College is forceful in teaching and studying, and combining education with a new marriage and family was a constant challenge. I have always liked to stay busy, and this tendency sent me through cycles of anxiety, crushed expectations, and impatience for my goals to be accomplished.
In high school, I sowed seeds of an overwhelming life, one I would never want my children to perpetuate. I saw hustle and accomplishment as the only way to be successful. I defined success as the achieving of my goals. To this day, nearly seven years later, I see the tangled weeds I had sown in God’s plan. Specifically, the thorns of pride and weeds of goal-making.
In Ecclesiastes, I began noticing the same phrase come up over and over again. One that changes my definition of success, especially for success in the life of a Christian.
24 There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment[c] in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God,
7 Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.
8 Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.
9 Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain[b] life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might,[c] for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.
What Is True Success?
Outward success comes from years of obedience, and it is the gift of God. For now, my wandering thoughts and my goal-setting has only brought frustration and sadness to my life. Once, I was a joyous person. Over the past few years, that has slowly bounced in and out of my life. It seems I have stopped eating and drinking with joy and stopped enjoying my work (and scripture has many other verses about drinking that would encourage maturity and wisdom in its use, even if it means you need to avoid it completely to be obedient).
I have been humbled, and I am grateful for it even though it has been painful. And still is. God switched my plans and perceived abilities to difficulties in bearing children, having a job, depending on my husband for income, limited to no traveling, pain in owning our trailer, and wild mental instability during and after college. I say all these weaknesses in hopes that you might find encouragement in God’s plan for your life. It is His strength alone allowing me to write and enjoy my time with my children. I am starting to find peace with His plan for my life, instead of trying to force my own.
Now, I pray I have sown new seeds of humility, patience, gentleness, and understanding. I try to focus on God’s will through His Word, and submitting to God. Every day is a new challenge to pray first and make intentional habits. With the power of the Holy Spirit on my side, I pray I might obey even more in the years to come without looking back and wishing it were like the good old days. This is the first time I have found real depth in Ecclesiastes, and it came right when I needed it. There are times scripture can seem to come out and grab us, as the Holy Spirit speaks to us in our circumstances. Most people also find it in music or conversation with others. However we hear the voice of God, we must cling to it and persevere though.
As a community, many others have helped me weed out the overgrown thorns I planted years ago. Much is still overgrown. But a new ground is also being tilled and we are trying to choose new seeds to plant. Seeds that bear fruit in their season, and take time and patience. This lifestyle is hard, but I pray the soil is good and the roots grow deep. So I might be able to draw others nearer to Christ by the sweet smelling aroma developed by God.
Will you pray for me as I plant new seeds to glorify God? And I pray you will have the power to do the same.