The Search is Over: “The Secret to Grasping the Meaning of Life” – Ecclesiastes 3

Meaning Of Life1

The Search is Over: “The Secret to Grasping the Meaning of Life” – Ecclesiastes 3

douglas_adams_portrait_croppedThe author Douglas Adams died in 2001 at age 49 of a heart attack. He was an interesting man – a radical atheist, environmentalist, and a thinker, who wrote the popular book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, along with a number of TV shows and “Dr. Who” episodes in the UK. In the heart of the Hitchhiker’s Guide novel, he added what became a central joke to the book’s plot (if you can call the book plotted at all) which has perhaps become more famous over the years than anything else in the book. The simple quote that expressed the joke is this: “The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42.” Are you puzzled? The writer explained this all-important number was calculated by an enormous supercomputer named “Deep Thought” over a period of 7.5 million years. It was a grand answer! If you are puzzled as to its meaning – so was everyone else, for no one knew what specific question the number answered. As a result, the novel suggested a special computer the size of a small planet was built from organic components and named “Earth” with the prime purpose to calculate the Ultimate Question. In classic British humor fashion, Adams showed that we have the answer, but not the question. What followed was almost cult-like. Some, with too much time on their hands, wasted years and significant effort trying to ascribe cryptic significance to the number 42 and its occurrences. In 2011, one author published a well-researched work on the uses of 42 and its symbolic meanings by great authors and thinkers, like Lewis Carroll, the writer of Alice in Wonderland. Some seemed desperate to find a deep meaning behind the number Adams inserted as a joke. When asked, Adams explained the number. “The answer to this is very simple,” Adams said. “It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base 13, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat on my desk, stared in to the garden and thought 42 will do. I typed it out. End of story.”

In spite of the fact the writer claimed he simply “made it up” – people searched the novel for something deeper. Scores of young people still associate 42 as “the humorous answer” to a question they are searching for – though only a few are serious in that search today. Many won’t recall the novel from which the question came, but they know the answer…42.

I want to take you to another book – this one not comedy, not mysticism, and not fiction. In fact, the insights you find in its pages are so raw, they will change you – yet they are often overlooked by modern readers on the search for meaning. The author of this book was a king, and reputed to be the most serious intellectual of his time. I suspect if King Solomon were here today, he may object to Adam’s number this way: “The meaning of life isn’t found in a number – it is found in a box. Consider this: Life’s meaning can only be discovered when the query is placed in a specific context. Apart from that, life simply won’t make sense, let alone have a cohesive meaning.” That is a truth offered by Solomon for our lesson today.

Before we unpack that truth, let’s recall where we have been in our study so far…

We called the first lesson from this interesting book of wisdom: “Discovering the Painful Truth.” In that walk through the opening chapters of the book, we noted that after searching the world for meaning, Solomon noted that he was forced to admit the meaning of life simply cannot be found here. The author searched high and low, experimented vigorously, and could not find the answer to the meaning of life HERE. It was only when he looked beyond this world, high into the heavens and well beyond the sun – the answer was found. To a Jesus follower, that insight makes sense without much need to expound on it. Yet, in the world around us, the search for meaning in the material world seems like it continues unabated as people continue the ancient quest for life’s meaning and significance apart from any notion of a Creator and His plan. If we are honest, we will note that increasingly our world resists the idea of a Creator – at least One Who places any controls, rules or expectations on us. They seek freedom from constraint, but cannot find so much as the meaning for the quest itself. The frustration of the venture was an important feature of the opening two chapters.

This book was a series of public addresses by a Koheleth (a preacher or public orator) given to expose a flawed view of life, and open the hearers to a proper perspective. In the opening words, Solomon exposed the emptiness of academic rationalism and experiential empiricism apart from the revelation of truth from the Creator. He said, in other words, “Life’s experiences and greatest insights are empty when not flooded with God’s truth! (Ecclesiastes 1:1-2:26).

As he continued in the third chapter, he began to carefully examine the problem of “how to properly measure depth and meaning in our lives.” Does my life matter? Am I diluting myself when I claim I mean more than my century journey through this world? (3:1-22). The Koheleth offered several essential observations that expose the answer. In essence, the passage offers this truth…

Key Principle: Life is a wonder and a joy – but only when placed in the right context. I won’t know it if I don’t frame it properly.

The beginning is familiar, poetic, pretty and (if you think of it) profoundly passive. He wrote:

Ecclesiastes 3:1 There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven— 2 A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. 3 A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up. 4 A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance. 5 A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing. 6 A time to search and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep and a time to throw away. 7 A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak. 8 A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace.

In effect, Solomon offered this observation: I have concluded that everything in life has a specific time and place, sometimes referred to as a “season” (3:1-8). On the surface, that seems an obvious truth. To some, especially coming off his experimental search in Ecclesiastes 1 and 2; it sounds a bit like surrender to a fatalistic world view – but it is NOT. To others who have journeyed the planet for some time, it seems like he was indicating “there are seasons to life.”

Hang out on Earth for fifty or so years, and if you are at all observant, you will learn that life truly does pass by in “seasons.” Things that are vital in one part of life are discarded when we enter another season. Life changes. Our desires change. Our sense of who we are changes.

Consider a little girl you may have known for a moment. She began life with big dreams and the desire to be the princess to her own version of a handsome young prince. Time passes, school days give way to summer nights, which make way for high school and perhaps even college classes. Eventually, she meets her choice for a life partner. They marry. She bears several children. After a short time, her life passes from her dreams to caring for and stewarding their dreams. A few decades slip by, and those children graduate and head out into the world. One day, she awakens from the long and arduous work of managing a family, and the bedrooms are empty and children are gone. The seasons have changed.

Solomon seems like he is saying, “Stuff happens. I am one little boat in a vast ocean, and I don’t control much of what happens around me, and often even to me.” That isn’t an unrealistic insight; that’s a fact. At the same time, that isn’t all he is trying to say. Look at the words more closely.

It is true. Life moves past me and my part is relatively small.

Solomon observed: There is an appointed time, only because there is One Who makes the appointments. Life has seasons, because life has a “Director of time.” Someone has the controls, but it is not me. Life is not unplanned – the problem is I don’t make, regulate or even know the whole plan.

The old king watched life, and remarked, “There is a day when a child is ready to be born, and when an old man breathes his last.” Things have a beginning and an end. Because they are happening all around us, we tend to focus only on one at a time. As I sat in the hospital with my father after his heart surgery – tubes and wires launching in every direction from his body – we remarked about the periodic music over the sound system that indicated a newborn had just been delivered in the other wing of the hospital. He was being repaired to stay with us, and a new one had just joined life’s journey.

As Solomon looked to the terraces and fields around him, Solomon recalled, “The planting seasons aren’t my choice – the ground and weather determine them.” So much of our life is WORK, and that season is a never-ending flow of projects that are mostly determined by conditions we didn’t cause. The roof needs to be replaced, the door hinge has loosened, the boss is expecting another quarterly report…

Still looking at the farm life around his kingdom, Solomon noted: “The cycle of life determines when I must pull up the old vines and fruit trees, because they don’t bear much anymore. There is a time when the old mare needs to be put down, and another when her foal needs to have his wounds bound for healing. The day finally arrives when the old barn needs to be felled, and the new one erected over the land.

A little time on Earth and it will become perfectly obvious: things change. Nothing here lasts very long.

Sometimes that is a good thing – there are moments that our broken heart pushes tears out of our eyes without any ability to shut them off. There are dark days and nights of seemingly unbearable pain, where loss drops a curtain of darkness over my heart for a time,

Sometimes life brings the very opposite. I simply wish that single moment wouldn’t end! There are other times I can barely catch my breath in fits of uncontrolled laughter, as I fall down crying joyful tears, unable to shake the funny thing I just saw or hear. There are grand vistas from beautiful peaks that when experienced open our heart to praise and nearly get our feet dancing. Solomon passed through all of these seasons.

He said, “When the rocks ruin the long plowed furrows, we know they must be plucked from the field and tossed aside.” Sometimes things that never bothered us become a problem to us – and that problem cannot be left alone. Other times, when the rock fence barrier has collapsed and needs rebuilt, we recognize the need to carefully gather each stone to set them one on the other.

What happens with rocks also happens with people. There are times you need them close. You lean on them. You cannot imagine facing life for another day without them. Then, there are times when you must do things alone. They cannot and should not help you. They are living their life, and you are doing what YOU should do.

There are seasons when we are working toward a goal, seeking something. There are other times when we recognize the need to give up on the goal. Endless striving will break any man.

Wisely, Solomon noted: “There are times when we are filling our house with new things. It seems like we need and need and need. Then there are times when our house has become far too full, and much of what we have we no longer truly need. We call these times: “yard sale” season.

There are things we have built or fabricated that had a seasonal purpose. They served us well, but now look like an old piece of junk. We need to know when it is time to part with those old treasures. They can’t follow us beyond this life, and no one else is attached to them.

As he winds down his list, Solomon noted, “Sometimes we should speak. We should offer help. We should share our experience. In another season, we learn that is not helpful. We sit silently with a hurting friend, and no longer feel the need to observe how their choices led them to this pain. We just hold their hand and cry with them. It is what they truly need, and the choices cannot be undone. The time for a lesson is past. The time for warmth and love is now.

Solomon closed his observations with this, “There is a time when you must walk away from a relationship and build new ones.”

In his wisdom and by God’s grace, he faced what some of you have been forced to face –

• We cannot fix people.
• We cannot make takers become givers.
• We cannot help those who do not truly desire to be helped.

Sometimes we find that our help is enabling them to bypass growth and continue harmful patterns. Sometimes we need to close that door – as hard as it is to do.

Because there are those who do not want what is right, there is a time when we may be forced to fight. We don’t seek trouble or strife, but we may not have any choice. We cannot surrender the weak around us to lies. We cannot stand idly by as evil men crush tender hearts. We have a duty greater than maintaining the peace at all costs.

Each of Solomon’s observations are important, and we could spend hours searching the meanings of each line. At the same time, the truth that life changes and seasons pass by can leave us with a nagging thought…

Since I am small, does my life really matter? (3:9).

Ecclesiastes 3:9 What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils?

Solomon’s question could be simpler put, “What’s the point?” or perhaps, “Do I matter?” If I am going to spend life on this planet working, searching, and observing the seasons of change – does it count for anything?

Thankfully, Solomon does more than ask – he pours out some important components toward constructing the answer.

To discover meaning, life must be placed in context.

First, he explained what he learned having searched before us. He said, “The way I learned to identify a small piece of the plan (i.e. the part God gave me to do) was by recognizing God is the One Who weaves each life into a whole plan (3:10-11a). He said it this way,

Ecclesiastes 3:10 I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves. 11 He has made everything appropriate in its time…

Solomon made sense of life by setting his experiences and seasons in the context of God’s plan. There is a TIMER and SEASON MAKER in the heavens. He said: “I set the seasons of life inside His control – and that was the beginning of making sense of life.

The Bible declares, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7). A little later, it makes plain, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10). Despite what you may have heard in our modern academies of learning, knowing God is the beginning of knowing everything else that matters.

Solomon found that knowledge in itself, knowledge within a naturalist system devoid of reverence for the Creator – was a waste and a depressing exercise. It got him nowhere and left him empty. He made that perfectly clear in Ecclesiastes 1.
Ecclesiastes 1:18 Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.

The wise man wasn’t arguing that stupidity is to be prized and learning was to be shunned. He was explaining that in the process of unfolding his search for meaning, he discovered in the depths of learning what could be sussed out by observation and examination. The issue wasn’t what he searched, or the methods he used. The issue was the CONTEXT of his search.

Life must be understood in the context of eternal purpose and an intelligent and deliberate plan by our Creator. A random existence leads to a purposeless world and a depressing emptiness.

To discover meaning, we need to be more perceptive.

Second, Solomon made clear the search was embedded within our hearts. If we are honest, we will admit we instinctively know we were made for more than the short century of our time on Earth. God inserted that little bit of information into our DNA. I believe that is the greatest reason why naturalism is fighting a constant battle in the science classroom. People may not WANT a God, because they don’t want accountability, but they KNOW something is wrong with the idea that everything got here by itself without any intelligent design or intent. We may not know all that we want to know, but we know this isn’t all there is. We just have to learn to hear what God wrote into our hearts. We were made for eternity. We were made for HIM. Solomon wrote:

Ecclesiastes 3:11b …He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.

The term “set” is “nawthan” from which we take the name “Nathan.” It is the word for giving a gift, or setting something in place for someone else. The deep inner longing for Heaven and more than our time on Earth is a gift of God. It isn’t meant to confuse or frustrate us – it is meant to help us by making clear that things may not be fair on this broken planet – but one day they will be set right. That adds some level of peace to our struggle with inequity as we make the journey through life.

To discover meaning, we shouldn’t get lost in the search.

Some people can’t begin to believe unless they understand every facet of everything. That is like a man who won’t get in the car until he fully grasps a combustion engine. Solomon’s third observation was this: “I must not consume myself with questions that have no answer in the here and now (3:12 a), but rather should give myself to the joy of living in His goodness (3:12b). He wrote,

Ecclesiastes 3:12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; 13 moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God.

Some people don’t get this truth. Perhaps a little illustration will help…

Imagine you got a letter in the mail and attached to it was a check from a foundation – but you never heard of them before. If you are at all in touch with the way things are in our world, you would be suspicious. You might call a friend. You may even check out the foundation on the internet. Let’s say you do all of that, and you discover they are a philanthropic organization, and are quite legitimate. You look at the check carefully. Then you read the note. The message makes plain that you have been selected to take your spouse to a Tuscan farm in Italy, and spend a few weeks enjoying life. The check is sufficient for you to buy the air tickets that suit you best, rent a car when you arrive, and all other expenses, including your meals in fabulous restaurants. You will be fully cared for upon your arrival. You check the internet again, and discover dozens of people who received over the past decade a similar letter and check, and you see their fun-filled pictures. You read their reviews carefully – and the whole thing seems to be exactly as presented. You deposit the check, wait for it to clear and buy your tickets. You make your plans, and arrive in Fiumicino airport near Rome to rent your car. What should you do with your time? Would you spend the whole time pretending you are Tom Hanks in a Dan Brown novel and try to discover the “real reason” behind the gift? Would you just decide to accept the gift and go and enjoy it? Solomon’s point was that once he was clear on the fact that life only made sense when viewed as a gift from God, he reckoned the right response was to stop trying to figure out God and accept the gift the Creator gave in his life. He stopped trying to figure out God, and started to celebrate His goodness.

Solomon’s point was that each of us should enjoy the gift of life God gave – to work and to accomplish (3:13)! The very act of living is cause for celebration. The daily opportunity to work is a wonder created for us by a God Who knows what will make us full. The act of being creative, whether in art, music, writing or even dramatic expression, is designed to be a sensational experience! There is incredible joy in exploration and learning; all are wondrous gifts from our God.

Let me ask you: Are you conscious of how GOOD God has been to you? Do you stop and thank God for what He has given you? What happened that soured you to tasting the wonder of the gift of your life? Are you happy analyzing endlessly what is wrong with the world? Solomon made the simple point that life doesn’t have to be fully comprehended to be deeply savored.

Let me ask you:

• Are you conscious of how GOOD God has been to you?
• Do you stop and thank God for what He has given you?
• What happened that soured you to tasting the wonder of the gift of your life?
• Are you happy analyzing endlessly what is wrong with the world?

Solomon made the simple point that life doesn’t have to be fully comprehended to be deeply savored.

I get it. I have sat for hours in front of paintings in some of the world’s best galleries. A few months ago, Dottie and I were in Madrid. We stayed in a little apartment across from a world famous art exhibit at Museo Nacional del Prado. One morning, I got a ticket and went across the street to sit and look at paintings in their renown collection. There were some paintings by Albrecht Durer, a few famous pieces by Rubens, some profound scenes from the Bible by Fra Angelico and many others. For about an hour, I sat on a bench and studied a painting by Raphael of the Holy Family. I looked at the blended brush strokes and then focused on the expressions of Joseph, then Mary, then Jesus. It was an opportunity to see through the eyes and hand of a master artist a scene taken as much from his life as from his Bible. I LOVED sitting there. There is a unique joy that can be experienced by quite observation of beauty. The fact that I cannot paint like that only makes it better.

To discover meaning, I have to admit there is only one plan – God’s plan.

God has no real competitors. He is alone in the Heavens, apart from the beings He Himself has made. Because that is true, I must admit that everything in life follows the plan of a Sovereign God, and that He must be revered by us (3:14). God has set seasons and cycles, and I am a part of the flow of that larger plan (3:15). He did it for His own reasons and His own joy. There is no other bigger reason for all of it. Solomon said it this way,

Ecclesiastes 3:14 I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him. 15 That which is has been already and that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by.

Those observations settled Solomon; they didn’t trouble him. They helped him make sense of the features of life that otherwise wouldn’t have found a place to rest inside him.

To find meaning, we admit that God’s judgment will come to all.

Solomon looked at inequity and the unfair treatment of people here, and found peace by looking to heaven. He wrote,

Ecclesiastes 3:16 Furthermore, I have seen under the sun that in the place of justice there is wickedness and in the place of righteousness there is wickedness. 17 I said to myself, “God will judge both the righteous man and the wicked man,” for a time for every matter and for every deed is there.

To the naturalist, every tragedy comes down to “bad luck.” There is no plan. Where is their help in the NICU as the life signs of the infant slip away? What sense can they make of that child’s life? Seriously, can an atheist encourage you after a fire wipes you home off the map, taking some of your beloved family?

Their message is simple: You and I are elegant viruses randomly mutated from stardust, meaning nothing. When tragedy strikes, they are forced to throw up their hands and say, “That’s the way it goes sometimes?” That very approach erodes the importance of life. It solves nothing for the person who was raped, the faithful spouse who felt the sting of a cheater, or the man who spoke truth, only to be rejected by his friends.

Knowing a judgment comes is a comfort to those who have been hurt by injustice. Men may measure each other by the color of their skin – but God is righteous. Men may allow injustice and buy off a jury – but there will come a day when all will be made known… and that is a GOOD THING. It adds back the missing resolve to an unfair world.

To find meaning, I must recall that life here is temporary – but here is not all there is.

Solomon closed the passage and pondered the end of both men and animals (3:18). He observed that, in a way, people here are temporary, like every living creature on earth. They are born, live a short time, and then pass away from the scene. He wrote,

Ecclesiastes 3:18 I said to myself concerning the sons of men, “God has surely tested them in order for them to see that they are but beasts.” 19 For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity. 20 All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust.

That’s true. We are like animals in the natural sense. Our body is temporary – but even that is mercy! Our life is transient. Our journey passes like the morning dew. At the same time, our death in this body is not our final moment. Solomon finished his observations with two questions that one must rightly answer to find meaning. The first is a “who knows” question.

Ecclesiastes 3:21 Who knows that the breath of man ascends upward and the breath of the beast descends downward to the earth?

Here is the point of the question: If I cannot discern the difference between the temporary nature of the animal and the eternal nature of man, I cannot grasp the meaning of life. This is the essential question of our day.

If life is only material, and there is no deliberate Creator – we have no meaning. There is no purpose. If your life is cut short by someone else’s cruelty or negligence – too bad. Life isn’t fair. There is no answer. Dogs die. People get raped. Get over it. This is all there is. Accomplish much – it won’t matter. Nothing really does.

Don’t despair, we aren’t done. Solomon has one more observation that will bring peace.

To find meaning, I need to trust God knows what I don’t.

Solomon cannot leave his flock in despair – because that wouldn’t get his hearers understanding of the truth. He finished with these words,

Ecclesiastes 3:22 I have seen that nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities, for that is his lot. For who will bring him to see what will occur after him?

Solomon reminded his hearers of this truth: there is One that sees beyond this life and knows the difference, and that is God Himself. He knows what I don’t know. I can’t figure out how all of this complicated life ends up making sense – but He knows. He is the Master of history, but also of the future. My fate is in His plans. Because that is true, the best thing I can do is focus on the things God has put in my life to work at and change, and receive each day as His gift for my part of the bigger circle of life. He alone can know the truth of my life and contribution.

Honestly…

Life is a wonder and a joy – but only when placed in the right context. I won’t know it if I don’t frame it properly.

Don’t fault God for the confusion… it came because of our rebellion against Him in the Garden. Before that, Adam and Eve DAILY had His presence to celebrate during their cool morning strolls through their home garden. It was sin that caused the break and gave us both the distance from God, and the confusion of trying to find meaning without Him. In the time chosen by God, Jesus came.

Jesus didn’t come to Earth to make the bored happy; He came to make the broken whole. He came to put back the context into which we find meaning. Happiness is the byproduct of restoration to God. Strangely enough, happiness in this life is not the primary goal – meaning is. With His coming, Jesus didn’t remove us from the struggles of life; He joined us on our journey through each one. The result is not a ‘care free’ life, but a caring Companion to lead us through the darkest hours. Following where He leads restores purpose, and that provides meaning.

Howard Culbertson (of Nazarene Missions) wrote a story that should help us see this truth:

In 1904 William Borden graduated from a Chicago high school. As heir to the Borden family fortune, he was already wealthy. For his high school graduation present, his parents gave 16-year-old Borden a trip around the world. As the young man traveled through Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, he felt a growing burden for the world’s hurting people. Finally, Bill Borden wrote home about his “desire to be a missionary.”1 One friend expressed disbelief that Bill was “throwing himself away as a missionary.” In response, Borden wrote two words in the back of his Bible: “No reserves.” Even though young Borden was wealthy, he arrived on the campus of Yale University in 1905 trying to look like just one more freshman. Very quickly, however, Borden’s classmates noticed something unusual about him and it wasn’t that he had lots of money. One of them wrote, “He came to college far ahead, spiritually, of any of us. He had already given his heart in full surrender to Christ and had really done it. We who were his classmates learned to lean on him and find in him a strength that was solid as a rock, just because of this settled purpose and consecration.”2 During his college years, Bill Borden made an entry in his personal journal that defined what his classmates were seeing in him. That entry said simply, “Say ‘no’ to self and ‘yes’ to Jesus every time.”3 … During his first semester at Yale, Borden started something that would transform campus life. One of his friends described how it began. “It was well on in the first term when Bill and I began to pray together in the morning before breakfast. … We had been meeting only a short time when a third student joined us and soon after a fourth. Borden’s small morning prayer group gave birth to a movement that soon spread across the campus. By the end of his first year, 150 freshmen were meeting weekly for Bible study and prayer. By the time Bill Borden was a senior, one thousand of Yale’s 1,300 students were meeting in such groups. Borden made it his habit to seek out the most “incorrigible” students and try to bring them to salvation. …Borden’s outreach ministry was not confined to the Yale campus. He cared about widows and orphans and the disabled. He rescued drunks from the streets of New Haven. To try to rehabilitate them, he founded the Yale Hope Mission. One of Bill Borden’s friends wrote that he “might often be found in the lower parts of the city at night, on the street, in a cheap lodging house or some restaurant to which he had taken a poor hungry fellow to feed him, seeking to lead men to Christ.”7 Borden’s missionary call narrowed to the Muslim Kansu people in China. Once he fixed his eyes on that goal, Borden never wavered. He also challenged his classmates to consider missionary service. … Upon graduation from Yale, Borden turned down some high-paying job offers. In his Bible, he wrote two more words: “No retreats.” William Borden went on to do graduate work at Princeton Seminary in New Jersey. When he finished his studies at Princeton, he sailed for China. Because he was hoping to work with Muslims, he stopped first in Egypt to study Arabic. While there, he contracted spinal meningitis. Within a month, 25-year-old William Borden was dead. When the news of William Whiting Borden’s death was cabled back to the U.S., the story was carried by nearly every American newspaper. “A wave of sorrow went round the world . . . Borden not only gave (away) his wealth, but himself, in a way so joyous and natural that it (seemed) a privilege rather than a sacrifice” wrote Mary Taylor in her introduction to his biography.10 Was Borden’s untimely death a waste? Not in God’s perspective. Prior to his death, Borden had written two more words in his Bible. Underneath the words “No reserves” and “No retreats,” he had written: “No regrets.”

1 Taylor, Mrs. Howard. Borden of Yale ’09. (Philadelphia: China Inland Mission, 1926, page 75)
2 Ibid. page 98
3 Ibid. page 122
4 Ibid. page 90
5 Ibid. page 97
6 Ibid. page 150
7 Ibid. page 148
8 Ibid. page 149
9 Ibid. page 149
10 Ibid. page ix