For the most part, Noah simply ignores an internal agitation that might signal a lack of control. When disruptions rise, he takes active steps to adjust to them and regain control. When traffic slows, he changes lanes. When the junior member of the firm takes his parking spot, he uses the situation to gain even greater control of the employee.

But even when we spend lots of energy wresting control from chaos, God will not let us achieve what would block us from himself. He actively orchestrates life so that we are continually presented with minor and major disruptions—and reminded that we are not in control. Noah experienced that too. The towing of his car reminds him that life is not tamable. God has rigged the world so that Noah’s false sense of security will be exposed and his presumption of being able to control even the automotive aspect of his life will be upended.

Unfortunately, Christians often ignore God’s disruptions, attributing them either to Satan’s assault or just to the way life is. We too quickly mask our frustration, saying something like, “Well, I may not know what is going on, but at least God does!”

We assume God will take care of those who pursue him. We find ourselves attracted to sayings like “the LORD does not let the righteous go hungry” (Proverbs 10:3 NIV) rather than to sad—but accurate—observation like the Teacher’s:

The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. . . . People can never predict when hard times might come. Like fish in a net or birds in a trap, people are caught by sudden tragedy. (Ecclesiastes 9:11-12)

The Teacher does not even find comfort in the idea of an afterlife where God puts everything right. As he looks into the future, he cries out:

This, too, I carefully explored: Even though the actions of godly and wise people are in God’s hands, no one knows whether God will show them favor. The same destiny ultimately awaits everyone, whether righteous or wicked, good or bad, ceremonially clean or unclean, religious or irreligious. Good people receive the same treatment as sinners, and people who make promises to God are treated like people who don’t. (9:1-2)

No wonder the Teacher concludes, again and again, that life is “like chasing the wind” (1:14 and many other verses). If we pay attention, we easily conclude the same. Even though we try hard, we can still feel we are groping in the darkness with no ultimate success.

People today spend a lot of physical, emotional and spiritual energy trying to control their schedules, jobs and relationships. We assume that the solution to our lack of control is to find new systems, new rules, new methods, new “laws” for doing things. We think that if only we have the right systems, we can control the chaos.

Our experience and the Teacher’s observations deny this assumption. We need to turn from frenetically chasing control to something better. Under the sun, we chase control, but we discover it is as difficult to grasp as the wind. However, we can choose to move from an “under the sun” perspective to an “above the sun” one.

Let’s take some time to explain this terminology, which will play such an important role in this book. We have already observed that the Teacher uses the phrase “under the sun” to describe life and perspective here on earth, apart from God. The Teacher himself never uses the opposite phrase. We are coining it to explain the opposite perspective. In other words, while the Teacher kept his search for meaning and truth utterly earthbound, we want to look at life from God’s perspective as he reveals it to us in his Word.

How do we move from an “under the sun” perspective to an “above the sun” viewpoint? The answer, spoken by the second wise man to his son (and read out loud in Noah’s Bible study), is simply this: “fear God and obey his commands” (12:13). Put God first in your life. If you want to find meaning and purpose in life, look at reality from God’s perspective, not your own limited view.