“Better is a handful with quietness…” caught my heart as I read Ecclesiastes. It speaks of contentedness, of saying “enough.” One hand is full, while there is still the reality of another hand that is empty. But the focus is on the “handful.” And by saying “enough” comes the gift of quietness and contentedness.
“Better is a handful of quietness, than two hands full of toil and striving after the wind.” ~Ecclesiastes 4:6 (ESV)
Solomon wrote a good deal about being hasty and striving and scheming to get what one desires and expects to find pleasure in, with a drive to have both hands full. But in all of this there is a deep sense that what is being chased after in this world cannot satisfy. When we are honest, both hands never really are full in life; there is always some lack.
Ecclesiastes reminds us that nothing on this earth can fully satisfy our hearts. In contrast, when we turn our hearts to God as David did in Psalm 23, God satisfies us. Not with the gifts He gives, but with Himself. Much of God’s promises are internal, relational, spiritual – which often confuses and frustrates us because we are so physically and worldly focused. This is something Paul understood:
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. ~ Philippians 4: 11-13 (ESV)
Notice that Paul says, “learned.” This is something we continue to learn and grow in! Paul learned to turn to God in dependence and be content, rather than some other response such as passive depression or self-reliance.
Jesus is with us always. As we do life with Jesus, he strengthens our spirits to be content. To be content and joyful, though it doesn’t erase the hard things, sadness, struggle, or the reality of actual lack. As we turn to him, he is our present help to allow us to live well in the particular mix of needs and plenty in our lives.
What is in your full hand?
What gifts may come along with your empty hand? What might God be doing?
Lord, I lift my hands to You, and turn my heart to You. One empty hand, with desires unmet; and one hand full, with much to be thankful for! Help me not possess a heart of depression that is blind to all the gifts, but rather a heart of thankfulness that keeps turning to You.