November 5, 2015

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11

“Out, damn'd spot! Out, I say!” laments the frantic Lady Macbeth as she wanders in her sleep through the castle, wracked with the guilt of murdering King Duncan, and finding her effort in cleaning his blood off her hands an exercise in futility. “Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?” she mutters to deliver William Shakespeare’s perfect illustration that actions can never completely root out that psychological demon known as the human conscious.

I’ve often envisioned the elder King Solomon, filled with regret, looking at his hands the same way Lady Macbeth did right before he wrote Ecclesiastes. Oh, how he must have wished he could turn back the hands of time and wash away all the mistakes he had made—the years wasted—all for the sake of vanity. With every word he wrote, I see him shaking his head in defeat. He started his reign as king with so much potential. He had more resources at his disposal than any other king previously in the history of the world. But instead of keeping his eyes on God, his focus shifted over time to the things of this world, and he became consumed with selfishness.

In an article in, psychologist Melanie Greenberg writes: “Regret can have damaging effects on mind and body when it turns into fruitless rumination and self-blame that keeps people from re-engaging with life. This pattern of repetitive, negative, self-focused ruminative thinking is characteristic of depression and may be a cause of this mental health problem as well. Other research, reported in the AARP Newsletter, shows regret can result in chronic stress, negatively affecting hormonal and immune system functions. Regret impedes the ability to recover from stressful life events by extending their emotional reach for months, years, or lifetimes.”

In 2 Corinthians 4:18, Paul exhorts us to “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” As the book of Ecclesiastes unfolds, we see Solomon emerge from being completely debilitated by regret, to finally being able to shed the chains of the temporary and return his gaze back to God with clean hands and a re-purified heart.