As Solomon explores wisdom and madness further (from a foundation of experience and reason), his struggle to understand is thwarted at every turn. But it eventually leads to a resolution, the ultimate discovery—that purpose, meaning, and joy come when we find a foundation of trusting in God. Although we cannot understand it fully, Solomon discovers there are great benefits to the experience of following God.

When the foundation for Solomon’s investigation is his own reason and experience, he finds only futility. The wisest man on Earth with seemingly endless resources cannot get there on his own.

But starting from a foundation of faith, trusting God with the mysteries of life rather than trying to reason them out for himself, paradoxically unlocks reason and turns it into wisdom. It unlocks the futility of experience and redeems it for joy.

Solomon sets out to discover purpose in all the things people labor to accomplish. These are categories like science, industry, and work. The second area of investigation takes place in the realm of the mind—what we would categorize as philosophy or theology. These things are meaningless unless explored with a foundation of faith.

Despite Solomon’s concerns about the fleeting nature of existence, he concludes that he should enjoy life and affirms there is benefit in his toil because this is what God desires for him (2:24-26). There is redemption as the chapter concludes; Solomon’s compulsion to understand is still nagging at him. But, understanding his limitations and trusting in God, he can find a different path to meaning—faith, gratitude, and trust in The One greater than himself.

Ecclesiastes 2:1-2

Solomon evaluates pleasure as a means to satisfy man’s compulsion for understanding, and finds that it is a dead end.

Ecclesiastes 2:3-9

Solomon pursues the heights of pleasure and the diverse ways a man might enjoy himself, all while holding on to wisdom.

Ecclesiastes 2:10-11

Solomon laments that his pursuit of pleasure and accomplishments do not result in lasting fulfillment.

Ecclesiastes 2:18-23

Solomon examines the destiny of his legacy and the intrinsic value of his hard work, and despairs because he will leave it all to those who will eventually squander it.

Ecclesiastes 2:24-26

Solomon turns from the frustration of failing to find meaning through reason and experience. He discovers meaning and purpose through a life of faith and thanksgiving to God.

Ecclesiastes 2:12-17

Solomon expresses his displeasure with how Time obscures the value of reason and experience. When it comes to relieving mankind’s compulsion to understand, wisdom is as vaporous as madness and folly.