This world is a messed up place for sure, but you can find joy if you take the time.
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Definitions of key terms in Ecclesiastes which make it much easier to understand.
Ecclesiastes 3 Summary
Remember that the Preacher is viewing the world (notice the repetition of the phrase and I saw...) from the perspective of under the sun. In other words, this is what the world looks like apart from the gospel. For those that stand outside of Christ, this is all they have.
Certainly the Preacher sees the ugly side of reality; the hurts, pains and problems which are the result of sin in this world. But at the same time, there's a recognition that there's good in this world, even for those who don't have the hope of the gospel.
The Preacher sees the rhythmic cycle of life: a time for this, and then a time for that. At whatever point you're at today, it will change. This gives hope for improvement if things are bad, and reminds you to enjoy the present if things are good, for it will someday be different.
The Preacher encourages you to find the beauty under the sun, for God made everything beautiful in its time (v11). Slow down and take the time to recognize the good things you have, be joyful, and take pleasure in your work (v12-13).
Even though there's lots of good down here under the sun, you need to know that you'll never be content with it, no matter how good the times are for you.
On one hand, the Preacher notes that there's not much difference between you and the animals. You will die just as they do, and at the point that Ecclesiastes was written, nobody had ever come back from the dead to confirm an afterlife (v18-20).
But you are different than the animals. You've had eternity put into your heart (v11). You can enjoy life under the sun, but your heart will never be at peace until you are brought back into a right relationship with the eternal God in who's image you've been created.
That's why this somewhat depressing book is such good news. Through Christ, you can enjoy life both under the sun as well as eternal life beyond it.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our eternal Father who will judge the righteous and the wicked (v17)
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Ask for the wisdom to weather the bad times and to recognize and enjoy the good times while you live under the sun.
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: