Joy at the End of the Tether
Wilson, Douglas. Joy at the End of the Tether. Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1999.
This book is a conversational walk through the book of Ecclesiastes. Douglas Wilson helped me to see for the first time the depth of wisdom and truth in Ecclesiastes. It is not exaggeration to say that Wilson has revolutionized my understanding of Ecclesiastes.
Previously I saw Ecclesiastes as portraying a world of emptiness and hopelessness, with an occasional disjointed glimmer of hope that there was some escape from the wasteland. But Wilson shows, conclusively I think, that Ecclesiastes is a unified whole. The world is full of vain repetition. But the message is not that we should become ascetics, forsaking the vain repetition of the world, for to do so rightly we would have to go out of the world! The message, rather, is that we should walk in faith, receive our lot as a gift from God, with appropriate joy and gratefulness. To the one who walks in unbelief, the vain repetition of this life brings nothing but despair. But to the one who walks in faith, trusting in God’s sovereignty and goodness, even the vain repetition of this life is a gift from God to be enjoyed.
This book has been tremendously helpful in encouraging me to walk in faith through difficulty and even tedium, challenging me to cultivate real gratefulness rather than a worldly gritty perseverance. This is part of faith’s growing in seeing all of life as being before the face of God (coram Deo).
I recommend this book very highly.
I’ve also encountered John Reisinger’s series titled “Thoughts on the Book of Ecclesiastes”. I don’t know much about Reisinger, nor have I yet done more than skim these articles. But Reisinger references Kaiser frequently, who was also one of Wilson’s primary sources. I’m retaining links to these articles for my reference; I don’t know yet whether I can recommend them: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8.