I get the impression that God is really helping Solomon to identify with the people he is observing and to have compassion for them. Solomon's sadness is clear when twice he says about the victims of oppression - 'And they have no comforter' (v1). This isn't a cold-hearted objective experiment that Solomon is undertaking. He really seems to care deeply about the people he is studying. Every person he observes seems to make him feel more desperate about life and the futility of it.
There's two things to notice about the pain Solomon is talking about. Firstly, the pain he saw must have been extreme because he concludes that it is better not to be born at all (v3), but secondly, it also must have been common to all because he says the dead are better off than 'the living' (v2). In other words, it isn't just some people that are worse off - Everyone's worse off. Why? Because the living are those who have seen sin (v3). Every one of us (who are among 'the living'!) can see how sinful our world is, how sinful we ourselves are and how much suffering there is as a result.
Solomon considers greed and envy as examples of this sin at work in our lives and our world. People behave as if wealth actually counts for something eternal (and we've seen that it doesn't) whilst ignoring (or even contributing to) the plight of the poor and the weak. People seem too often to care about possessions more than people and Solomon says - 'This is a miserable business!' (v8).
The lesson Solomon draws from all this is that we all need each other. We need to see how valuable people are and that we each need other to help and supports us. And we need to help and support others in return.
Who do you have when you need someone to talk to, trust in and rely on? I feel very fortunate that I'm spoilt for choice when I need people like this. I know I have a network of support that I can just reach out and grab someone and they'll try and help as much as they can. I'm also aware that there are those who know they can reach out to me to ask for help too and they frequently do!
As you reflect on these words today, consider how you would answer these questions...
1. Who do you have that you can talk to, trust in and rely on?
2. Who talks to you, trusts you and relies on you?
3. Considering your answers to 1 and 2, what, if anything needs to change?
The pictures Solomon uses to describe what it's like when people aren't alone are really powerful. Read verses 9-12 again and ask God to make these images a reality in your own life increasingly.