Now Is All We Have

Ecclesiastes 9:7-12
7 Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do. 8 Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. 9 Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun— all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, [a] where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.

11 I have seen something else under the sun:
The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.

12 Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come:
As fish are caught in a cruel net,
or birds are taken in a snare,
so men are trapped by evil times
that fall unexpectedly upon them

All of us have had those days when nothing seems to go right. We all know the ones I’m talking about. We forget our homework, we fail room inspection, or we say something we really shouldn’t. Then we get grumpy and bitter and that makes everything worse. It’s a cycle of the bad day blues that is very hard to escape from. Every small annoyance makes the next step a little bit harder to take. All the unpleasant moments of our day pile up until we find ourselves sitting on our beds after study hall, shoveling Ramen noodles into our mouths, cursing the Heavens and asking God, “Could today POSSIBLY get any worse?”

When was the last time you asked if the day could get better?

Think about it. Sitting on our beds, eating our feelings away and feeling sorry for ourselves is totally pointless. That helps no one, especially not you.

The reading we just heard from Ecclesiastes tells us to do all that we do with our full hearts, because when our lives are over, there is no working, no planning, no knowledge, and no wisdom.

Essentially, the reading reminds us that now is all we have. And that applies to everyone – it doesn’t matter if you’re 17 or if you’re 84, if you’re strong or weak, if you’re rich or poor. Chance and fate happen to everyone: no one is immune to the misfortunes which can befall us at times. What makes a difference is our reaction to these events – the positive thinking and optimism which can carry us through even the roughest of times.

When we have a bad day, we’re immediately on the defensive, sort of a way to cut our losses and minimize the damage. We shuffle from place to place feeling down, and when friends ask us if something’s wrong, we shrug and say, “No, I’m fine.” Why are we perfectly content with labeling 24 hours of our life as bad? We console ourselves by acknowledging that the sun will rise the next day and things will get better. But why do we wait that long? It’s true that there is something powerfully symbolic and motivational about the start of a new day. But if we keep on waiting until tomorrow, that is a lot of wasted time.

Benjamin Franklin once wisely observed that: “God helps those who help themselves.” So while you’re wondering why God picked you of all people to have an awful day, remember that. We need to stop justifying our sadness by saying good things weren’t in the cards today, that God obviously has something against you. God doesn’t have anything against you – saying that, my friends, is the easy way out. The reading says quite clearly that God has blessed the lives we lead under the sun, and he wants us to enjoy them. But enjoying them is up to us. It’s our responsibility to make the changes in our life which will lead to happiness. It is our attitude which makes the day good or bad, not what happens to us. Happiness is a journey, it’s not a destination. Waiting for tomorrow to be happy is trying to get to a destination, and it’s a destination you’ll never get to.

At [St. Margaret's School] , we hear a lot about community. And we should hear a lot about it. We are incredibly blessed to have a network of students, faculty, and staff who are constantly looking out for one another. We are the epitome of a support system. Every person in this room has both contributed to our community and been positively affected by it, whether you are aware of it or not. But community is not all about giving back – sometimes it’s about using your resources. When you are struggling, you can reach out and know there is someone who will do whatever it takes to get you back on your feet.

So the next time you want to put your head in your hands and feel sorry for yourself, remember that it’s easy to be unhappy. Happiness is tougher – and cooler. Get into the habit of shaking off negative events and thoughts and before you know it, having a positive outlook on life will be automatic. We never know when something bad will happen, but know that you have a community which will do anything to help out. God helps those who help themselves, and He gave you the skills and resources to do just that. Make a conscious decision to let nothing affect your inner peace and your happiness, no matter what happens. Try it – you won’t regret it.

- Lucy Eckman, November 2009

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