What's the Point With All This Suffering and Struggle

Pastor Alisa Lasater Wailoo, October 8, 2017
Part of the What's the Point? - Ecclesiastes series, preached at a Sunday Morning service

"Let my heart be broken by the things that break God's heart." Bob Pierce

Continuing our journey with Koheleth, the cynical author of Ecclesiastes, we will consider his take on suffering and death beginning with the often sung Ecclesiastes 3, "For everything there is a season. . . ."

That Scripture always makes me think of Forrest Gump and the band, The Byrds. The movie tells the great heroics of a simple man and, at the same time, it honestly interweaves the struggle and pain of life from war to illness to death.

This week especially feels like the times of “killing, weeping, and war” are all around us. But strikingly, of all the things Koheleth calls meaningless, he does not carte blanch list suffering and death among them.

Now, in no way, do I think he is simply saying, “Everything happens for a reason” implying God wants us to be sorrowful. But, if not that, what is Koheleth communicating in chapters like Ecclesiastes 7?

Well, consider this thought from Biblical scholar Ellen Davis, “The sorrow that Koheleth commends is not ‘the foolish sorrow which people make up for themselves’ (Martin Luther) but the real trouble that all must face who do not shrink from the challenges of loving and living.”

So, as we consider Ecclesiastes 7, what God is trying to tell us -
collectively and in our own personal seasons of life.

We live in challenging, heart-breaking times, but thankfully, God gave us powerful, challenging, and life-giving words for just such a time as this. Come to this sermon as a means to weep, pray, listen, learn, and love together.


Earlier: Same day: Later:
« Our Work is Our Purpose, Right? None Is it Pointless? Yes, That's the Point! »

Ecclesiastes 7:1-14

7:1 A good name is better than precious ointment,
and the day of death than the day of birth.
It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise
than to hear the song of fools.
For as the crackling of thorns under a pot,
so is the laughter of the fools;
this also is vanity.
Surely oppression drives the wise into madness,
and a bribe corrupts the heart.
Better is the end of a thing than its beginning,
and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
Be not quick in your spirit to become angry,
for anger lodges in the bosom 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?

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 man may not find out anything that will be after him. (ESV)

Matthew 5:1-6

5:1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (ESV)

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

3:1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace. (ESV)

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