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.
This is some of the wisest counsel in Ecclesiastes. Most of us take a lifetime to learn it, because we often seem to think we can just do it ourselves, and we don’t need any help. Well, maybe that’s not the way your mind works, but mine does. There’s a reason I was born on July 4, I guess. Independence has always been both a strength and a weakness of mine. I think Solomon could have easily spoken these words directly to me.
To paraphrase: We need to understand the place of man in contrast to the place of God. If we fight against Him, we’re going to lose. Accepting His sovereignty brings us to a peaceful acceptance with life under the sun. This is not to say we should be fatalistic about life, sighing and shrugging at the hard things that come our way. God has provided us with many resources for dealing with trouble, especially with the practical counsel from His Word. It is true that He is sovereign; His sovereignty, however, does not absolve us of responsibility to deal with the hard things in life.
Solomon’s counsel on how to put the good and the bad of life into perspective: “Accept the good and the not-so-good in life, and do the best you can.” As Solomon seems to be turning again to a sense of hopelessness, we have to remember his perspective: “Under the sun ,” or from man’s perspective. With the excellent advice he has given us here, he still maintains his rather negative outlook, a hopeless sense of vanity, or emptiness. Isn’t it interesting that we can know something is true, and yet continue to behave in a way that would make it seem as if we DON’T know what is true? When that happens, it is usually because we allow our feelings, our emotions, to get in the way of our common sense.
This is what happened to Solomon. His sadness overwhelmed his own good counsel, and he felt that everything was rigged; a man can’t know what is going to happen, nor can he figure out what will come later.