(Jared Waterbury, "Meditations and Prayers" 1840)
"Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it--and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun!" Ecclesiastes 2:11
The author of the book of Ecclesiastes gives us his experience of the unsatisfying nature of all worldly honors and pleasures. Everything that could . . .
please the eye,
charm the ear,
gratify the taste, or
amuse and enrich the mind--
was by him, sought and enjoyed. The whole circle of earth's pleasures was tested. But in the end, all is pronounced "vanity and a striving after wind."
The disappointment results from the very nature of the soul. Its capacity being illimitable--no finite enjoyment can fully meet its enlarged desires. Nothing but a faithful discharge of duty, and the approving smile of God can make the soul happy. Give the soul whatever you will--gratify every earthly wish--it will still be wretched if it is without God. All below is vanity.
The consideration that all worldly good must so soon be relinquished, is of itself enough to cast a shadow over its enjoyment. The heart must feel that there is nothing permanent here in this poor world.
"Life is but a vapor."
All earth-born pleasures are transitory.
Death withers every flower as soon as it blooms.
Man too is hurried to the tomb--and then forgotten.
If then all below is stamped with vanity--then O, let us seek our all in God. Let us relinquish in desire, what we have been accustomed so much to value--that the soul may start anew in the race for a prize worthy of her struggles, and which when obtained will amply reward her toils. Let us fix our eye on the "Unfading crown of glory!" Let us deliberately renounce this vain world, and take God for our only and all-sufficient portion!
Whether on earth we are known or unknown, honored or despised; let us seek after this one thing:
to secure the favor of God;
to enjoy His presence; and
at last to be with Him and inherit His glorious eternal kingdom!
Unsatisfying, O Lord, as the world is--still a strange infatuation exists within our hearts, which leads us to covet its distinctions and its pleasures. As far as you have permitted us to test the world's power to produce happiness--we have been invariably disappointed. We have found it to be "vanity and vexation of spirit."
Its sweetest pleasures have turned bitter in the enjoyment.
Its loveliest scenery cannot charm us, apart from You.
Its honors--so far as obtained--have proved but empty bubbles.
Yet why, O Lord, do we still hanker after these vain delights? Why do we not learn to evaluate them at their true worth? Come into our souls, with all Your fullness, and then our hearts will quickly bid adieu to them. You know that we are never satisfied--never happy--when we are not living unto You, and holding sweet communion with You. You know how weary is our soul--though surrounded with earthly good--if You are not with us, or if we have failed to place You first in our affections! We will return to our rest--we fly to You our God once more. Heavenly Father, hear our humble prayer, for Jesus' sake. Amen.
"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan