An Partial Excerpt from the Book: “Living on the Ragged Edge”

There once lived a man who had the time, the money, and the energy to take such a journey. Not just a mind trip, but in actuality. Not across the imaginary back roads of his memory by simply following the blue lines on a map, but into life itself. Because he was “free to walk” and because no one was able to restrain him, he held nothing back. Thankfully, he kept an accurate journal of his journey, which is available for all to read.

The man’s name was Solomon. The journal he kept is a book in the Bible named Ecclesiastes. Sounds like a strange name for the book, doesn’t it? It means “preacher,” or “one who addresses an assembly.” If you prefer, “speaker of the house”-and the house is symbolic of life itself. In the book, Solomon speaks to all of us about all of life.

I should tell you ahead of time that the journey this man took, while mind-boggling, left him deflated, depressed, and disillusioned. The best word is empty … his favorite and most often repeated description of how he felt. In fact, Solomon’s motto appears on the frontispiece of his journal: Vanity of vanities … Vanity of vanities! All is vanity (1:2). Being interpreted in today’s terms, it is “a wisp of a vapor … a puff of wind … a hollow, empty ring … zero … ZILCH!”
That is the way Solomon described how he felt before he took his journey, while he endured his journey, and after the journey was over. Nothing satisfied. There was nothing that he saw, discovered, attempted, produced, initiated, or concluded as a result of his lengthy search that resulted in lasting significance or personal satisfaction.

But wait. Before we allow ourselves to accept his desperate, sweeping admission, we must ask why. Why was it such a pointless, empty treadmill? Why wouldn’t the man who was king, who had such an endless supply of financial resources, find something – anything – that would have purpose?

This is a good time to clarify Solomon’s perspective, especially since it’s the same perspective most people operate from today. To quote from his own testimony, it is an “under-the-sun” perspective. Time after time, Solomon mentions his horizontal, strictly human viewpoint. In virtually every major section of his journal he uses the words “under the sun” and “under heaven,” which I shall repeatedly call to your attention throughout this book. Because he seldom looks “above the sun” to find reassurance, life seems drab and depressing, hopelessly meaningless.

In spite of the extent to which he went to find happiness, because he left God out of the picture, nothing satisfied. It never will. Satisfaction in life under the sun will never occur until there is a meaningful connection with the living Lord above the sun. Nevertheless, we, like Solomon, continue to try to find meaning in life, only to wind up on a dead-end road called Emptiness.

Talk about a relevant book! Ecclesiastes has today’s world woven through the fabric of every page. Whether or not we are willing to admit it, deep within most of us there is this restless, irresponsible, adventuresome itch. Deadlines and responsibility grate at us. We find ourselves ready to run-to escape into the back roads of our memories, to travel down the blue highways of life under the sun. “Surely, there I will find what it takes to fill the void.” Before we are able to crank up the car, Solomon’s advice brings us back to reality: “Don’t bother, it’s a pipe dream, empty as a puff of smoke, lacking in substance. It may look like it’s worth the effort, but don’t bother … life without God under the sun is despair personified.”

Frankly, I am pleased that we have this ancient book available today to set the record straight. All around us are people who are buying into this empty, horizontal, who-needs-God perspective. Their world is strictly visible, their whole frame of reference is humanistic. We see it lived out in soap operas every afternoon and on prime time every night. We hear it in political speeches. We learn it in the halls of academia, on the streets of any city.  ……………………………………….. …………..…………………………………………………………………………………………..

………………..Let’s Consider the Conclusion

The thing I love about Solomon’s conclusion is there isn’t a ruffle of drums, a loud blast of the horns, and screaming clarinets with a crescendo of passionate emotion.  There’s just a simple statement. And Solomon doesn’t try to be fancy about it either. When the conclusion has been heard, when it’s all been said, it literally reads, “Fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.”Ecc. 12:13   Isn’t that great?  I love the anti-climactic ending to this incredible journal.  We’ve been with him through every conceivable emotion, but now he finishes the entire work by saying that there are two things we need to pay attention to – two “musts”.  First, we must take God seriously.  Hold Him in highest regard. Respect and revere Him. Second, we must do what He says. Obey Him. You’d think Solomon slammed his journal shut and said, “Now, I’m going fishing. Got it done. Got it said.”  But’s that not all. He knows his readers would ask why.  Why should I revere God? Why should I obey His truth?

His last statement explains his reason. “Because God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” (v. 14).

You may say, “I don’t believe that.”  To be just as candid with you, let me respond by answering, “I don’t care!”  In the final analysis what’s more important – what you prefer to believe or what God actually says?  This is what God says and He’s never once lied to mankind.  If He says that He will bring every act to judgment (even though I don’t know how He will do it), I know He will.


Charles R. Swindoll is senior pastor of the First Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton, California.  He is also known for his conference ministries and his radio program, “Insight for Living”.  Dr. Swindoll has authored nineteen books, including the bestsellers ‘Improving Your Serve’, ‘Strengthening Your Grip’, ‘Dropping Your Guard’, and Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life’. He has also written numerous booklets on everyday living.


Ecclesiastes 9:1 For I considered all this in my heart, so that I could declare it all: that the righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God.