Article from the NLT Study Bible
“Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past.” Ecclesiastes 5:18-20, NLT
The conclusion of many of the Teacher’s reflections is that we are responsible for enjoying life because it is God’s gift. “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever” Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 1). The NT similarly encourages use to be joyful in all things, including trials and challenges.
Although there are conditions in which it would seemingly be better not to be alive, life is meant to be enjoyed with laughing, dancing, love, and peace. It is especially worth living when old age and death challenge that joy. We are to enjoy our food, drink, health, proper clothes, our loving spouse, children, daily work, and entertainment. Only when we treat the things of life and their enjoyment as ends in themselves are they deterrents to happiness. The Teacher speaks strongly against the pursuit of pleasure for its own sake as foolish without profit.
It may be surprising to hear such joy in a book that acknowledges such intense tragedy and frustration. But it is exactly this balance of joy and sorrow that characterize the wise person who reflects on all of life and understands its complexities in a fallen world.