Solomon said, “Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.” Ecclesiastes 7:13-14. Wisdom demands a person to recognize that he cannot make straight that which God has made crooked (7:13)
When one looks at Genesis 3 they see the fall of mankind. Because of the fall of man, God has made many things to be crooked, tangled, and disorganized, out of alignment. Wisdom tells man that he is wasting his time trying to cure or solve all of this world’s problems. Man cannot make straight that which God has made crooked. This does not mean that we should cease from our labors to improve the lot of men, it means that we should not deceive ourselves into believing that we can completely lift the curse from this earth. Solomon has said, “That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.” 1:15.
Solomon invites us as we read to “consider the work of God,” i.e., to employ the “knowledge” which wisdom supplies. Wisdom discerns the hand of God in all that happens. Every day the happenings of life reinforce God’s omnipotence and man’s impotence: “For who can make that straight which he has made crooked?” Solomon acknowledges that some things in life are “crooked,” i.e., tangled, sadly disorganized, out of alignment. We encounter these problems in our life here “under the sun,” that is, upon the earth.
Solomon encourages us as we read not to confuse ourselves too much about the mysteries of the universe. People should concentrate on God’s will so that they could see how they may bring their life into conformity with God’s will. The thought that there are “crooked” things implies no actual criticism; it merely describes life as nearsighted men might describe it. To attempt to straighten out such things is to assume divine prerogatives, to tamper with God’s eternal purpose. Solomon had said, “That which is crooked cannot be made straight.” 1:15. Many today want to arrange events according to what they want but they cannot. We must patiently endure whatever difficulties come our way. What will the wise person do? He will endeavor to accommodate himself to existing circumstances (7:13).
The fact that man cannot remove from life all that he perceives to be crooked does not mean that he should resort to apathy. Everything comes into clearer focus with the recognition that God is still on his throne and that God is in control no matter what comes or goes. When we face difficult days, we are to have a greater trust in God’s providence and sovereign rule. We need to remember that both good and bad days serve the higher purposes of God.
It should be noted that inward patience manifested itself in the outward disposition: “in the day of good, be in good,” i.e., when things go well with you, be cheerful; accept the situation and enjoy it. The consistent advice of Ecclesiastes is that a person should make the best of the present. So far, the advice is not hard to implement. Now comes the tough part: “in the evil day, consider,” i.e., use the times of adversity for solemn reflection. What is one to consider in the evil day? If you are in distress, learn the lessons of adversity. Those who do not get good health and great prosperity and bouncing joy may get something far better such as patience, wisdom, and inner peace.
Whether we enjoy prosperity or suffer adversity is unimportant. The important thing is how we have lived and how we die. There are things in this life that we will never fully understand. If they are sweet and pleasant to the taste, rejoice; if they are heavy and hard to bear, endure. The former may leave us empty. The latter may give us character. If our lot is to suffer, then let us do it fearlessly and turn it to our improvement.
To wring our hands and question “Why?” is of no benefit. However, we are never able to discern the good that comes from evil days. That inability continually reminds us that we cannot see what will come next upon the earth. People must learn to cast their care upon God, knowing that He cares for them (1 Peter 5:7). One cheats himself of a day of joyous living by fretting about the past or worrying about the future. Bobby D. Gayton
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