We Will Feast
Is it truly ever possible or appropriate to put aside hard topics and simply enjoy life?
“Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.” (Ecclesiastes 5:18)
In CNN’s award-winning show Searching for Italy, actor Stanley Tucci takes viewers on an exploration of Italy’s culinary delights. After traveling the pasta-and pizza-filled streets of Naples, Rome, and Bologna, Tucci enters the region of Lombardy to take a deeper look at the design, fashion, and finance hub of Italy: Milan.
But food isn’t the only thing on Tucci’s mind. As one of his guests hovers over a pan of fried fish, Tucci asks him about his political perspectives and begins to press him on policy issues. The guest responds a bit, but then turns back to the food he is making and shifts the topic to the meal — making subtle reference to their shared Italian heritage and love of food over talk of politics.
The scene is an awkward and tense collision of the simple joy of feasting in the midst of deep challenges we face in our society. But it raises an honest question: Is it truly ever possible or appropriate to put aside hard topics and simply enjoy life?
The book of Ecclesiastes brings us into that same kind of tension — drawing the reader’s attention to all the contradictions, sadness, and hard truths about life. It asks the reader: in a life that seems harsh and meaningless, can one still find true enjoyment and pleasure?
The author responds by pointing us to our Creator. He writes in Ecclesiastes 2 that God is the reason we can eat, drink, and enjoy the fruits of our daily labors, for he is the one who gives wisdom, knowledge, and happiness.
As one theologian puts it, the power and freedom to enjoy the gifts we have doesn’t come from the gifts themselves, but instead from the giver: our God. It is only when we fully embrace God through our relationship with Christ, that we are able to fully enjoy the gifts, even while tough public policy issues remain unsolved.
Finding joy in life’s simple pleasures ultimately demonstrates our dependency on our Creator and draws us closer to him. When we are enjoying our creator God and what he’s done for us, we are accepting that every little thing is in his hands. We are resting in the knowledge that God will be the one to make all things right.
Christ tells us in Matthew 6, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink … Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Just like the birds, we can put away our worries and rest in the knowledge that our God is sovereign, and we are in his care.
Ecclesiastes closes with a warning to each of us in chapter 12. “Remember also your creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them,’” the author writes.
By enjoying God in the good times, we are creating habits that will become essential to us when the clouds of time begin to gather. Trouble will come — times of mourning, crying and pain. But knowing that our joy is in who God is and what he’s done for us through Christ, we will be able to draw near to him and experience delight even in the midst of darkness.
Dominique McKay is the Director of Women's Ministry in Washington, D.C.