There is a verse in the book of Ecclesiastes that I find very intriguing. It is just a quick interjection of a simple thought but recently while I was listening to the book of Ecclesiastes while driving down the road, it captured my attention.
The verse is Ecclesiastes 5:20 and it says, “They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart” (NIV).
This hit me because I reflect on my life often, and probably am more invested in anxious reflection than I am in “gladness of heart.” The verse crossed me as it did because it seems to be saying that having a glad heart is a blessing from God and reflecting on life is a curse of being human.
I probably reflect more on life than most, because I am in my 60’s and as a chaplain at a trauma hospital I am dealing with death and dying everyday. Perhaps the verse convicted me that I need to be investing more in having a glad heart, than just reflecting on the ills and evil of life in a fallen world.
To be fair, all of Ecclesiastes is Solomon’s rant on the curse of being human. He writes of the meaningless of life under the sun for both the wicked and righteous, the wise and the foolish, and the young and old. Ecclesiastes is basically Solomon’s reflection on life. With the exception of a few insightful positive verses, Ecclesiastes is really a depressing look at living this side of Heaven.
I suppose it could be argued that a choice is before all of us to either reflect on our lives or enjoy a “gladness of heart.” Reflecting on our lives is going to lead to regrets, wondering what-ifs, and worrying about the why’s. On the other hand, “gladness of heart” comes from a focus of gratitude and gratefulness because of a God who is faithful and fulfilling of His promises to provide.
This may be the very reason the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:8 that “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
This may very well be the secret to having a “gladness of heart.” Life this side of Heaven is either meaningful or meaningless depending on the feeding of our minds with things that depress us or things that bring us gladness. It’s the principle found in Romans 12:2 that states, “be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
There is one final point about Ecclesiastes 5:20 that I wish to single-out and it’s the phrase “God keeps them occupied” which makes me think of our differing personalities. There are people who naturally have a sunny positive disposition and there are people who are naturally on the negative side like being prone to worry.
Some people find gladness easier to have than others, but it is something we all ought to find in the Lord. Psalm 4:7 states that it is the Lord who “hast put gladness” in our hearts, Psalm 32:11 says, “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice,” and Psalm 69:32 tells us, “The humble shall…be glad.”
The lesson here is to be more intentional about seeking a “gladness of heart” than on reflecting on our lives. After all, in Heaven we will “be glad” (Revelation 19:7) but “the former things” will be no more (Revelation 21:4).