“Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment…Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, I find no pleasure in them—. Ecclesiastes 11:9 and 12:1
The Bobby McFerrin song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy, is actually a pretty fair description of the practical world view of many people today, but especially young people. And the wise King Solomon agrees with what we who work with young people, or parent them, observe: Happiness is an all consuming pursuit, wherever or however it can be found! Unfortunately, little thought is dedicated to distinguishing happiness that will last. Once gained for a moment and more easily lost, there is a compulsion to restore it in either familiar or increasingly dangerous ways. Solomon certainly agrees that the joy and vigor of youth is an inherent pleasure, a rich blessing for the young person. As we see in the final chapter of Ecclesiastes (Chapter 12), those of us with some years on us can surely relate to the poets apt description of our deteriorating bodies, and the lack of joy they can produce in us. We sometimes view the young with envy and nostalgia.
The persistent difficulty the mature adult faces in imparting the wisdom of years to the joyful and carefree young person is this: how do I penetrate his or her heart and will with the caveats Solomon places upon the pursuit of happiness; each to insure its permanency? He adds, “But know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment and “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth BEFORE the days of trouble come… Many young people do not want to hear it, and such truth goes in one ear and out the other. Solomon calls this vanity and meaninglessness. Yet the lesson of Ecclesiastes is anything but the uselessness of such an effort to impart wisdom into the world view of a young person. Read Solomon’s conclusion of the matter in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 and you will agree that the effort is neither meaningless nor vain, if you truly love the young person you hope to guide.
You cannot read Ecclesiastes without observing the thinking, the self-observance, the meditation on life and reality, joined with the desire of the writer to impart wisdom to the reader; a wisdom that will result in lasting change and sustainable joy. We mentors, parents, servants of the young need to emulate his example. We ought to be as thoughtful and observant of the world, our life, our failures, our victories, in light of God’s truth. We too can share empathetically, compassionately, personally and truthfully with the young people God places in our path. And our goal must be as his, that the vigor and joy and delight of youth not be wasted in frivolous, dead-end pursuits of perishing rags masquerading as happiness. Instead young lives can be rooted in love of the Creator, the single-hearted pursuit of His commands, and the promised, unstealable joy of the result. It is the humility and authenticity of your experience, your thoughtful observance of God’s world, and your insight gained through specific prayer in the Holy Spirit, that can and will penetrate the heart and will of a young person set by God before you. Believe me He set him there. He set her there. He set you there. Don’t waste the opportunity!
“Heavenly Father, I am not accidentally in this young person’s life. Make me like Solomon that you might use me to penetrate this heart with Your truth.
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