“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.” – Ecclesiastes 9:9
In last week’s post, “The Long Journey of Marriage,” we looked at the importance of being committed to our marriages for the long haul. We saw how God brings us together as husband and wife, and sees us through many wilderness experiences, just as He did the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land. God provided everything His people needed for their long, difficult journey. And He does the same for us in our marriages.
We are told in 2 Peter 1:3: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” We find this “divine power” and “knowledge of Him” in His Word.
Ecclesiastes is one of the books of the Bible in a group referred to as “Wisdom Literature.” This group also includes Job, Psalms, and the Song of Solomon. They are referred to as wisdom literature because they are comprised of teachings from God about such things as nature, real life issues, and even God Himself.
In the Wisdom Literature, we find many teachings about marriage. These books provide practical wisdom for us as we seek to have marriages that last a lifetime.
One such teaching is through Solomon in Ecclesiastes 9:9: “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” (NIV). The Contemporary English Version puts it this way: “Life is short, and you love your wife, so enjoy being with her. This is what you are supposed to do as you struggle through life on this earth.” While this clearly speaks to husbands about their wives, the truth found here is to be applied by wives with their husbands as well.
So what exactly is God teaching us here about how to have a marriage that will endure?
Jesus taught God’s original plan for marriage when He said in Matthew 19:6: “‘they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’” God created marriage, and we know that it’s His intent for our marriages to be “until death do us part.” So it makes sense that God would tell us how to do that.
God tells us that we should enjoy life with our spouses “all the days of this meaningless life that God has given [us].” God gives us life. And if He gives us a husband or wife as part of this life, He wants us to enjoy that relationship.
Remember that when God created the world, He observed it and declared it was good, except for one thing. Genesis 2:18 says: “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” So God completed His perfect creation: “Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man” (Genesis 2:22).
Adam’s response when he saw Eve was a joyful one. “‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’” (Genesis 2:23). He now had a partner to share life with, and she did too. This is verified in Genesis 2:25: “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”
In Ecclesiastes 9:9, the word “meaningless” was translated for “hebel,” the original Hebrew word as it was written. It means “vapor” or “breath.” It is the same meaning as the word found in the Greek used by James in James 4:14: “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (bold mine).
God gives us life, and it is short. But He has gifted us with a spouse to help bring us joy as we travel through it. So no matter what our “lot in life” and our “toilsome labor under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:9), God has given us our spouse to bring us joy.
I have tried over the years to follow God’s wisdom found in Job 12:12: “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” And so I have sought the wisdom of older folks, including that of men who have long, loving marriages.
I once asked a fellow church member, who had been married for over fifty years, what the secret was to his happy marriage. He said, “Oh, that’s easy. We eat out every week. Nothing fancy, but we’re by ourselves away from everyone and everything else. We have the chance to talk and laugh and just be together.” This helps fulfill one of the primary reasons God created marriage– togetherness. This is a great way to make sure you “enjoy life with your wife [or husband], whom you love” (Ecclesiastes 9:9).
I have seen too many couples in my years as a pastor and counselor who are just marking time with each other. They are always waiting for something. They’re waiting for their children to get out of diapers or to go to college. They’re waiting for the mortgage to be paid off or for retirement. Something always seems to come along, and their plans to enjoy each other remain unaccomplished.
God is asking us through Solomon, “What are you waiting for? Why are you postponing enjoying the spouse I have given you? Enjoy your spouse to the fullest today.”
For years, Sabra and I have enjoyed taking walks together several times a week. We also like to go to a bakery most Saturday mornings for a bagel and coffee. It doesn’t cost much. It isn’t fancy. But it allows us to be alone together and talk. I’m taking the advice of my godly wise friend who has had a long life and a long marriage. And it helps bring joy to our marriage.
I recall when I was a pastor leading the funeral service of a man who had died suddenly. I watched as his widow passed by his coffin crying, realizing she would never see her husband again in this life. And the thought came to my mind: How would I feel if I were looking at Sabra lying there? How would I respond?
We cannot eliminate the grief we will feel on that day. But I am certain the pain will be less if we don’t regret that we didn’t follow God’s instruction to enjoy life with our spouse.
We don’t have the promise of tomorrow. God’s wisdom is clear: “Enjoy life with your [spouse], whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun.”
So make the most of the time you have together. Start enjoying your life with your spouse whom God has given you today.
Questions for Discussion
♦ Read this week’s teaching together, and discuss what God has taught you through it.
♦ Are you doing things to make certain you are enjoying this life God has given you together? If you are, then commit to each other that you will continue to do so until death parts you. If you’re not, discuss enjoyable things that you can do together. Make plans to do so, and commit to follow through on those plans.
♦ Discuss anything you are struggling with that hinders you from spending time together. Talk about possible solutions. Remember, God brought you together and made you one so you can work together on whatever comes up in your lives.
♦ Pray together, asking God to help you discover and follow through on the things that will help your marriage be life-long, as He intends.
Next week we’ll continue to look at keys to an enduring marriage as we discuss the importance of showing appreciation to our husbands and wives.
Until then, may God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,