“Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit…Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” (Ecclesiastes 7:8, 10)
When we have repeat experiences it is common to compare them. One child’s birth is more difficult than another’s; this job is better than the last one; or the medical procedure I had today is harder than the exact same procedure was last time. Comparing everything and everyone is a function of our sin nature—we love to measure, evaluate, and judge. This is not necessarily wrong unless our standard is our idea of what is good and best. The easiest or the most exciting experience is best, while the most difficult and mundane is the worst. However, our Bible verse tells us that it is not wise to ask why this time is harder than last time, or why we can’t return to the “good old days.” Let’s face it, those days weren’t that good; we are deceived by our memories. “It is folly to cry out upon the badness of our times, when we have more reason to cry out for the badness of our own hearts; and even in these times we enjoy many mercies. It is folly to cry up the goodness of former times; as if former ages had not the like things to complain of that we have: this arises from discontent, and aptness to quarrel with God himself.” (1)
When Christians are dealing with difficult circumstances and trials, illness, injury, hardships, or losses, we can find comfort and encouragement in the fact that these adversities are temporary. Our end will be with Christ, even if our physical or emotional well-being is weakened until the time when we leave this earth. Death is the great healer and end of all misery, suffering, and pain. But in the short run, even if the “end of the thing” is unpleasant, we have had the opportunity to grow in faith and dependence upon God. His victories are not always material and often show up in the responses of others more than in ourselves. Wise living involves being an example, even an imperfect one, for those who pray and support us. “Whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:21)
“The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit; patience is a fruit of the Spirit of God; and is of great use in the Christian’s life, and especially in bearing afflictions, and tends to make men more humble, meek, and quiet; and such are highly esteemed of God; on them he looks, with them he dwells, and to them he gives more grace.” (2)
Let’s consider what God has done in 2018 as it comes to an end. How have we grown in faith? In what way is the end of the year better? Are God’s works in us and our lives clearly seen? How will our answers impact our relationships with him in 2019?
(1) Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible, Ecclesiastes 7:7-10, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/ecclesiastes-7.html
(2) John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Ecclesiastes 7:8 https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ecclesiastes-7.html