"Better Is the End"

“Better is the end of a thing than its beginning” (Ecclesiastes 7:8).

I confess, I’ve always had some trouble with that statement. I guess it’s easy to see the truth of it when the thing in question is a dental procedure or a tax audit. But in many cases, the end of a thing saddens us: a fun vacation; a memorable school year; a gratifying career; the life of someone we love. The end means it’s over. Done. No more. It means it cannot continue, no matter how much we might want it to.

We are excited by new beginnings. Even if we feel a bit of trepidation, there is still something almost magical about the start of some things. The first day of a new school year or a new job. The first game of the season. The first few days of a romantic relationship. We love beginnings. Yet inspired Solomon says that we profit more from endings. Why is the end of a thing better?

The end of a thing is a time of satisfaction. Many things in life are begun with good intentions, big plans, and abounding energy, but for one reason or another they are not completed. We reach our goals only through perseverance. “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5 NIV). And when a goal is reached—a project completed, an exam passed, a promotion received, a child successfully raised—it is a time for joyful reflection on how God has blessed us.

The end of a thing often signals another new beginning. Many of life’s pursuits are built on previous accomplishments. Often we cannot begin a new journey until an old one comes to an end. If you recall a twinge of sadness when finishing high school, for instance, you also recall the excitement you felt at embarking on a new phase of life’s adventure, whether it was college or work or travel. The end of a thing can pave the way for even greater things.

Every ending is a reminder of how much in life is temporary and brief. The knowledge that even good things come to an end teaches us to have a proper perspective. It reminds us that life, and almost everything about it, is transient. We learn to set our hearts on what is eternal and unchanging, to store up treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). Difficult times come to an end, too, teaching us the value of enduring challenges that makes us better (see James 1:2-4). Through it all we learn to “look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Every ending can teach us to appreciate the blessings of the moment. Time passes. Circumstances change. We don’t have the luxury of pressing “pause” and freezing life on one frame indefinitely. Knowing this, we should see the value in taking time when we can to rejoice and give thanks to God for what is good in life. Solomon himself, observing how many things are empty and unsatisfying in themselves, counsels us to enjoy our blessings and acknowledge God as the giver of them all (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25; 3:12-13; 5:18-20).

Every ending brings us closer to eternity—a fresh new beginning that has no end. For disciples of Christ, every ending we experience in this time-bound life, so full of the temporary and fading, brings us one step nearer to the full realization of endless life with God. As John portrays it:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. (Revelation 21:1-4)

Better is the end of a thing than its beginning. Including this essay.