Positive Action for Christ offers several daily devotionals. We have a new devotional coming in June entitled Meaning for Your Labor: A Daily Devotional from the Book of Ecclesiastes. From our new book, here is an encouraging devotion on Ecclesiastes 1:18.
For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow (Eccles. 1:18).
In a closed system, an increase in one area can lead to a decrease in another. For example, in an ecosystem, an increase in the lion population would presumably lead to a decrease in the zebra population. An increase in eucalyptus plants would presumably result in a larger koala population. Nature operates on a cause-and effect relationship.
Similarly, Solomon says he discovered a cause-and-effect relationship of his own—between wisdom and distress. Though this one may seem counterintuitive, an increase in wisdom and knowledge results in increased vexation and sorrow. Wisdom reveals the difficulties of life. In his quest for meaning in life, Solomon found that more wisdom leads to more frustration and pain.
But shouldn’t this be the complete opposite? Shouldn’t wisdom lead to less frustration and pain? Unfortunately, it does not. In fact, the more we understand, the more we realize how little we actually know. The ecologist Aldo Leopold, reflecting on the decline of a now-obscure plant species, said, “We grieve only for what we know.” However, the wise soon learn the limits of their understanding, and so they grieve for that, too. In our “unhappy business,” meaning eludes us. Only our sovereign God fully knows why things happen as they do (Eccles. 1:13).
No matter how much wisdom and knowledge we obtain, we will never understand some mysteries. Like the little scroll that John eats in Revelation 10, the wise experience both the sweetness and bitterness of wisdom. Wisdom doesn’t remove every burden of life. Rather, it comes with its own unique burdens. But we can trust that the wise God who oversees the affairs of lions, zebras, eucalyptus, and koalas is also perfectly overseeing our lives. What we do not understand, He does.
Take comfort knowing God does not lack any wisdom.
Pre-order your copy of our new 180-devotional on the Book of Ecclesiastes, Meaning for Your Labor. Coming in June!