Life Under the Sun

We redeem our life under the sun when we remember what’s above it.

It’s barely summer, but already the sun is making itself known. I try to embrace the warmth, but the Minnesota in me wilts with each increasing degree. Underneath the oppressive heat, it’s easy to feel a sense of futility. Problems from past summers have only grown in the ensuing seasons. Righteous actions wither as the weeds of sin and destruction soak up the sun and thrive. What’s the point?

The book of Ecclesiastes deals with the same questions and opens with a strong disclaimer: “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher; vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). The rest of the book fleshes out that argument. In verse after verse, the author analyzes life’s pursuits to determine their ultimate value. Intellectual accomplishments, riches, politics, and irrational religious actions all get the same label: vanity. 

Ecclesiastes contains another key phrase, “under the sun.” The author uses this phrase 29 times to describe the frustration of seemingly pointless actions. “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (Ecclesiastes 1:14). If we were to stop there, life would indeed appear hopeless. However, the preposition “under” implies that there is another half to the story, something “above.”

Life changes when viewed from a heavenly perspective. Our stories gain new dimensions when we apply a spiritual understanding to everyday life. 

As lovely as that redemption sounds, it can be hard to enflesh. One book that bridges the gap is The Soul in Paraphrase, a collection of devotional poetry. In his introduction, editor Leland Ryken (2018, 14) discusses how literature is a continuum from the literature of belief to the literature of unbelief. In the middle sits the literature of common experience, or what we might deem “under the sun” literature. On its surface, this literature has no explicit Christian symbolism (such as the cross or heaven). However, when believers consider the work in light of God’s story, the passage takes on a new depth.

One example is the poem “The Windhover” by Gerard Manley Hopkins. This poem recounts the sweeping majesty of a kestrel mastering the skies. As far as poetry goes, the technique is excellent. In addition, the poem reveals a devotional nature after a closer reading. “The inscape [unique quality] of the bird that this descriptive poem captures is strength that stoops to conquer,” said Ryken. “The supreme example of this is the incarnation of Jesus and his death on the cross” (Ryken 2018, 213).

Poetry is but one example of how believers can see the coming kingdom in the present world. The seed you plant testifies that though death reigns for a time, beauty will sprout from decay. The meal you cook witnesses to the time when we will feast and fellowship. The yard you cultivate affirms the order that Christ brings from chaos. We may live under the sun for now, but we will reign with the Son for eternity. That fact makes all the difference.


Ryken, Leland, ed. 2018. The Soul in Paraphrase: A Treasury of Classic Devotional Poems. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

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