The Whole Duty of Man
My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle,
and they come to an end without hope.
Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath;
my eyes will never see happiness again.
Contemporary caregivers might diagnose Job as being depressed and prescribe pills to relieve his symptoms. But do pills fix the problem, or do they just cover it up?
Job’s lamentation is appealing because he describes a reality all people face: “You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning—though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered” (Psalm 90:5–6).
If this life is all there is, then where is the reason for hope? Solomon called such a life “meaningless.” And Job summarizes the stark facts of such an existence this way: “For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom” (Ecclesiastes 9:9–10).
Yet neither Job nor Solomon falls into the trap of succumbing to the view that there is no God and that life is “full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” The ways of God may not always seem brilliantly clear, but this is not cause for abandoning God. In the end, Job says, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God” (Job 19:25–26). And Solomon says this: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
—Eric Kampmann, Signposts