Real Success vs. Grasping for the Wind

Two men who were fantastically successful financially looked back on their lives with frustration. What can we learn about the real meaning of life?

In the mid-1960s in the United Kingdom there was a popular song called “Catch the Wind.” The theme was that the singer might as well try to “catch the wind” as to win the love of the girl of his dreams. He felt he had been making futile efforts to win her love.

In the same manner the Bible depicts vain and futile efforts as “grasping for the wind.”

In the pages of history there are two extremely successful men who, as they got older, could well apply the title of that song to their lives. In later life they both reminisced and saw that they had been effectively trying to “catch the wind” throughout what they now saw as their unfulfilling and futile earlier lives.

Financially, they both had been astronomically successful by accumulating vast riches. However, when it came to satisfaction in life, love, marriage, etc., they were both way off the mark. Like the vast majority of humans, they made ineffective and fruitless efforts to live satisfying, rewarding and contented lives.

One of these very successful men lived in Old Testament times; he was King Solomon, the son of King David. The other was J. Paul Getty who died in the 1970s.

Lucrative lives

In their very successful early lives, neither man had success regarding marriage and the family. They did not seem to know how obedience to God in these respects could have enriched and added meaning, fulfillment and great purpose to their lucrative lives.

Walking with God

The great purpose of the Christian life is to “enter into life” for all eternity (Matthew 19:17). Too few people realize that in keeping God’s 10 Commandments both in the letter and spirit, we can find an abundant life walking with none other than the Almighty God.

No true reward

These two men had a rich and well-to-do life, but their reward was just that: a well-to-do life and not much more. They did things “their way” and had many people subservient to them, but it still left them far from satisfied with life. Both of them had become rich beyond their wildest dreams; but as they matured, they grew weary of their efforts to find fulfilled and meaningful lives.

Vain pursuits

The Bible records King Solomon’s reputation for pursuing various projects, schemes, ventures and hobbies in the hope that these would all contribute to his well-being and satisfaction. He had many women, actually 700 wives and 300 concubines, but all this could not bring a rewarding life. He eventually came to see that his life was pointless, futile and unfulfilled and continued searching for something more meaningful.

Highly successful failure

J. Paul Getty was married and divorced five times. In his time he might well have been the world’s wealthiest man, but he said, “I hate to be a failure. I hate and regret the failure of my marriages. I would gladly give all my millions for just one lasting marital success.”

He achieved prominence and had the money to choose whatever lifestyle he wanted; but as he grew older, he came to realize that a good, happy and lifelong marriage would give him a lot more satisfaction than the vast riches he accumulated. He, too, had been “grasping for the wind” of materialism and riches. Like King Solomon, he, too, came to see disappointment in life, not having experienced a happy marriage and the contented family life that goes with it.

Grasping for the wind

Both men were disillusioned with what their great wealth could offer them. However, the penny eventually dropped for King Solomon. He saw what he had been pursuing in earlier life was all hollowness. It filled him with vanity and was futile in comparison to the rewards of obedience to God.

Solomon’s outlook on his futile former life was that he had been “grasping for the wind,” and the book of Ecclesiastes, which is generally accepted as being written by him, mentions this no less than nine times.

What makes a man whole and gives life meaning?

In due course the most important thing to him was something diametrically different and infinitely more valuable than the materialism, mass riches and the flamboyant lifestyles that he had spent his life accumulating. He simply turned to God, as the following two verses, among many others, inform us.

  • Ecclesiastes 9:9: “Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun.”
  • Ecclesiastes 12:13: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (emphasis added).

To paraphrase this last verse: When all things are considered, respecting God and keeping His commandments is what makes a man whole. It’s what gives meaning to life and puts us on the road to a truly satisfying and fulfilling and joyous life—forever!

For more about the purpose of our lives, see the “What Is the Meaning of Life?” section.

About the Author

Eddie Johnson

Eddie and Sandra Johnson serve the membership in the Tonbridge, England, congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association. He is an ordained elder.