He Died Too Soon
"I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on men: God gives a man wealth, possessions and honor, so that he lacks nothing his heart desires, but God does not enable him to enjoy them, and a stranger enjoys them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil." Ecclesiastes 6:1-2
Here is a truly sad story. A man works years and years climbing to the top of his profession. When he finally makes it to the top, everything is taken away from him. We aren’t told what happened, but many explanations come to mind. Perhaps he had a heart attack or lost his health and was forced to retire early. Or it could be that one of his employees conspired with the Board of Directors to remove him from power. Or he might be falsely accused of wrongdoing and publicly humiliated. Solomon’s point is clear: God gives wonderful gifts but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we will enjoy them.
This is one of the ironies of life. No one achieves wealth without the blessing of God yet no one enjoys wealth without God’s blessing. Once again Solomon brings us face to face with the seeming inequities of life and the inescapable fact that God alone controls the course of human events.
In one of his books Watchman Nee said that we approach God like little children with open hands, begging for gifts. Because he is a good God, he fills our hands with good things—life, health, friends, money, success, recognition, challenge, marriage, children, a nice home, a good job, all the things that we count at Thanksgiving when we count our blessings. And so like children, we rejoice in what we have received and run around comparing what we have with each other. When our hands are finally full, God says, “My child, I long to have fellowship with you. Reach out your hand and take my hand.” But we can’t do it because our hands are full. “God, we can’t,” we cry. “Put those things aside and take my hand,” he replies. “No, we can’t. It’s too hard to put them down.” “But I am the one who gave them to you in the first place.” “O God, what you have asked is too hard. Please don’t ask us to put these things aside.” And God answers quietly, “You must.”
God’s grace comes in many shades and variations. Sometimes we see his grace in the things he gives us; often we see it in the things he takes away. I hesitate to say that God always replaces what he takes with something better because that might be misunderstood in earthly terms. Some losses cannot be calculated because the cost is so great. But of this much we may be sure. When God takes something from our hands, it is not an act of hatred—much less a quirk of cruel fate—but an expression of God’s love as he leads us to place where our trust will be in him alone.
Gracious Lord, when I tempted to hold on too tightly, remind me that I never owned anything because all that I have comes from you. Amen.