The Preacher of Ecclesiastes is correct when he says that greater wisdom leads to greater grief, that more knowledge leads to deeper sorrow. And perhaps to some, that seems reason enough not to seek understanding, not to acquire knowledge, not to pursue wisdom. After all, if your heart aches all the deeper simply from knowing more, then what's the point of inquiring? What's the good in knowing?
You can almost see a little bit of this attitude in the Preacher himself. He's consistently saying through his sermon that it's all meaningless, nothing but vanity, nothing but chasing the wind and trying to catch it. You don't get anything for it, he says, except trouble, except exhausting yourself and running yourself dry.
This is where I break with the Preacher, for my heart of sorrow knows something different. Something the Preacher perhaps could not know, given as he lived some time before the Cross. And this is it:
The same wisdom and knowledge that leads us to deepest sorrow and grief is the very wisdom and knowledge that draws us to greatest hope.
Once you see the brokenness and the fallenness of this world in which we live, you can't un-see it. At every turn, you see the depraved hearts of men, the longing hearts of men, the wounded souls of men that are just doing what wounded men do to try to make it in a world that's chewing them up and spitting them out alive and leaving them to find their own way through it. This is the source of sorrow and grief.
But the more that you see this, the more you understand the contrast between what is and what was meant to be. The more you see men struggle against their own woundedness, the more you understand the wholeness - and holiness - that God intended for us. The more you see us all going to Hell in a handbasket, the more your eyes are opened to understand the beauty of heaven. And it is on this account that the tiny flame of hope begins to flicker and burn and rage inside your soul.
The more you understand about this fallen world, the more your heart aches to see it restored. The more you hurt for those who hurt, the more you long for healing. The more lost you feel here, the more anticipate you have to be found. Done right, this great sorrow draws us into greater hope until our eyes, which see so clearly here, become firmly focused there.
And it's not just hope. It's faith, for this kind of sight gives us the strength to live in a world promised but not yet come. It's love, for our compassion is kindled for those mired here. It's confident assurance, for we can see the echoes of Eden that remain and the absolute truth of God's promise. It's humble expectation and fervent anticipation, for we know without a doubt that day is coming.
The Preacher may seem to say that perhaps it's not worth it, perhaps wisdom and knowledge are not the incredible gifts that they seem to be. They bring sorrow and grief, he says, and he is right.
But they also bring hope. And hope is a most precious gift that, I say, is worth the cost. We must be willing to grieve deeply if that is what it takes to hope abundantly.
Seek wisdom, my friends. For it truly is a good and beautiful gift.