How many people have said to you that they are waiting for the end of 2020? How many memes have you read? How many daily commentaries of news and events have you read in disbelief that what is actually happening around us is real? The threat of Covid 19 took us all by surprise and then came the stay at home orders and every contradicting expert argument about what we should and shouldn’t be doing. Then came the death of George Floyd, protests, riots, more deaths, statues toppling, CHAZ, and the list goes on. With every dramatic event this year has brought, there have been arguments and debates from every side. We have seen disease, division and even disorder. How could any of us say that we can put on a happy face?
If anyone was going to tell me that I can be joyful, I would want to know that they come from a position of reality. A happy face can be a very superficial act in the midst of a very serious climate and if I am to show joy, it must not negate reality. The book of Ecclesiastes speaks to this exact situation. Throughout the book we are constantly facing the futility of existence under the sun. As you read through Ecclesiastes you relate to the experiences of oppression and abuse, depression, madness, anxiety, war, loneliness and the general groan of life in this fallen world as we know it. The writer of Ecclesiastes makes no apology for speaking about the certainty of death for all humanity and the unpredictability of life. It is in this context that the writer of Ecclesiastes also tells us that we can live with joy and actually show it.
In Ecclesiastes 9:8, we read, “Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.” A similar statement today might be along the lines of someone telling you not to look so glum. Don’t wear black as if going to a funeral. Don’t put on dust and ashes as if in mourning. Where a bright white garment and clean yourself up with some soothing oil. Put on a happy face.
If we were to read this verse on its own, we would indeed consider this to be a superficial response to real hardship, but the outward appearance of this statement is as a result of true inner hope and joy. In Ecclesiastes, we are constantly facing the fact that this world will continually offer what we are seeing in our society right now. This world offers disease, division and disorder. There is no ultimate solution to it because the sin nature of mankind in this world will never change. The more we live for this world and in the pursuit of making this world our refuge, the more this world will let us down and show us the bankruptcy of human pursuits.
Christians hear the argument from Ecclesiastes and realize that while we live under the sun, our hope is beyond it. Because of the cross, we have been spared from putting our hope in an unachievable satisfaction under the sun. Because Christ has rescued us from sin, death and the futility of this age, we have a greater glory that awaits. We also have an urgent message of deliverance to spread. Why would anyone listen to us if all they hear and see in us is the despondency and woeful anxiety brought on by the distress of what is happening in the world around us? It’s not that we can’t speak to the serious issues that surround us. In doing so, we should be displaying and articulating a hope and joy in the ultimate solution of Christ that we already have. The inward confidence of salvation in Jesus should have an outward reflection in our appearance and words. So, if you are in Christ, sympathize with the hurting, acknowledge the dangers, mourn over the disorder, disagree with the divisions, and beware of the disease, but reveal your hope and don’t hide your joy. Put on a white garment and anoint with oil. Put on a happy face.