Looking at the overall context of chapter 4, I’m guessing that when Solomon is taking about people suffering through oppression, he was probably talking about people who were oppressed as slaves. People who are not working out of enjoyment, but because they are being forced to for another’s profit. And Solomon says essentially that it’s better to be dead, than to suffer like this.
I doubt that any of you reading this are slaves, but you may feel like one. And you may feel like your job is sucking the very life out of you.
Believe it or not, God did intend work to be a joyful and fulfilling thing. Work wasn’t a result of the fall, because God had given work to Adam before sin ever came into the world. Namely, Adam was to take care of the garden God had placed him in. What sin did was to make that work a struggle (Genesis 3:17-19). But as Solomon notes, satisfaction and joy in our work is a gift from God (Ecclesiastes 3:13). But when we are separated from God, work often starts to become oppressive. Even when we are walking with God, we sometimes find ourselves with oppressive bosses, oppressive workplaces, or oppressive work. And when we’re in that situation, life can become a misery.
If that’s you, I do believe that God has something better for you. You may feel trapped in your job. That there is nothing better out there for you. But don’t believe that lie. Pray and seek God’s face. Unlike those without God, we have a comforter in our times of struggle. Not only that, our Father loves us, and he has the power to change our situation if we turn to him.
Jesus said this,
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11)
Lord, I wouldn’t say that my work is joyless. I do enjoy it. But you do know I need something better. Lord, it’s so easy to see the job situation out there, and to just give up. To resign myself to the job I have. But I believe that you are the one who gives good gifts. And so Lord, I pray that you would give me that better job. Open my eyes to the opportunities that are there. And pave the way for a job that gives the joy that you want me to have as I work. In Jesus name, amen.