Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.
Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.
Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might,for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.
What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man.
I don't take this to be instructions to live a hedonistic life. Nor do I typically like extracting only PART of the massive wisdom found in Ecclesiastes and trying to make a one-sided point out of it. The whole book definitely has context and these excerpts certainly need to be taken in context.
However, I do sometimes feel that I struggle in one of two ways:
1) Angry, bitter, and frustrated, I fight to "keep the course" and do what I know to be right -- I take no time to enjoy, I just keep plugging along. I want to work hard but it's all about what I need to do.
2) I give up and turn to escapism and for at least certain periods of time, I have a real apathy towards God
Both are inappropriate responses. The goodness of God is great. Work and the satisfaction that comes from good work, building relationships, and enjoying the fruit of hard work is not something that we should feel guilty about basking in and enjoying. This is God's gift to man and it's following in the pattern of God -- he delights in his creation. And yet, we are also not to be turning away from our work or what we know to be right and short-circuit to the enjoyment of things that we didn't work for.
It's not about what we deserve, it's having the ability to recognize the gifts that we have been given by a loving Father (good work, loving family, adoring wife, skills to share with others, etc.) and truly enjoy them.
Here's to hoping that in 2014 I can apply these things in my life.