Ecclesiastes 11:9-10 9 Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.
10 Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity. – ESV
Transitioning From Youth
In some ways I still consider myself a youth. But ultimately I’m in a slow transition into something beyond the season of youth. Not quite middle-aged yet, but not feeling quite as I did in my teens and twenties. Some minor health problems have brought home—forcefully—the truth that I’m not invincible, and that time does go on and you reap what you sow.
It’s caused me to engage in a lot of introspection over the past several years. I’ve mourned the loss of the feeling of invincibility and I’ve rejoiced over the many victories God has brought me with the years. After all, I don’t miss the turbulent aspects my of adolescence and after sober consideration, the feeling of invincibility is nothing but a mirage.
A Balanced Perspective
I think the verses above in Ecclesiastes bring a balanced perspective. They speak against the mirage of invincibility, by calling to the mind of young people that though they are free to enjoy all the vibrance and vigor of youth, they must keep in mind that their actions will all be judged. Don’t be impulsive and rash in your youth, just because you feel like nothing and no one can ever call you to account. We will be held accountable.
And then there are three key words in verse ten. Vexation, pain and vanity. Vexation alludes to the turbulence of adolescence I was referring to, with other possible translations such as, anger grief, indignation, provocation, sorrow, spite and wrath. All the passions and emotions we are so vulnerable to early in life. And later in life, too, of course, if we don’t overcome.
The word pain is translated as evil in the King James. Other possible translations include adversity, affliction, calamity, misery etc. More of the things we are vulnerable to in our youth. Solomon is admonishing young people to put those things away from their hearts and their bodies because youth and the dawn of life is vanity.
The Vanity Of Youth
It’s vain, as in empty and pointless in the grand scheme of things. It’s fleeting and transitory. Enjoy your youth while it’s here, but don’t get hung up on it, because it’s going away, and really, it’s pointless and empty in the eternal scheme.
Our whole life is but a mist or vapor, according to James 4:14. How much more so, the youth of our life? So why do we, against Solomon’s sound advice, get so hung up on retaining youth instead of enjoying it with the knowledge of imminent transition? Why do we as a culture, glorify it so much? And why does the Bible in other places venerate old age? (e.g. Leviticus 19:32)
Are we okay with the conflict of our culture and Scripture? Do we easily buy into the culture’s narrative of squeezing everything carnal we can out of youth and life before the pleasures of it are no longer attainable? Doing that inevitably brings the vexation and pain Solomon warned us to put away.
So we see how we can Biblically view youth, but how do we grapple with moving beyond it? Like I’ve pointed out, our culture makes aging appear tragic. It’s probably simply a lack of eternal perspective and a longing for immortality without using God’s template to attain it. God’s template includes a cross for us to climb on daily and many times it includes going through the process of aging, not to mention the physical death at the end of it all before we find true life and immortality.
It takes faith, while watching our bodys’ vitality reverse, to believe we are actually drawing nearer to true life—more abundant and real than even that of our youth. But that’s exactly what the Bible tells us.
2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. – ESV
So it seems, ironically, that the older we become in the flesh, the younger we become in the spirit. Once we are born again, our spirits become younger every day, according to how we view youth. If we can believe this and truly grasp it, we have no reason to despair at the loss of youth and the dawn of life.