A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line - The Life of a Cicada


Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900). You can find other devotions, sermons, essays, articles, and announcements on The Cove Community blog. 

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Ecclesiastes 2:16-26

For there is no enduring remembrance of the wise or of fools, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How can the wise die just like fools? So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me; for all is vanity and a chasing after wind.

I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to those who come after me – and who knows whether they will be wise or foolish? Yet they will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity.

There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God; for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy; but to the sinner he gives the work of gathering and heaping, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a chasing after wind.

The Life of a Cicada

Right now, we’re at the end of seventeen year cicada life-cycle. And I’ll tell you, it’s really neat. You see, after the baby cicadas hatch, what’s called the nymphs, they drop to the ground and borrow up to eight feet down in the dirt. And for seventeen years, they live down there, feeding on the sap from tree roots. And then, after waiting so long, they emerge, shed their exoskeletons one last time, and then they mate, lay eggs which hatch, and the process continues. Of course that happens if they’re lucky. If they’re not, they get eaten by a bird or a snake or a squirrel. Or maybe they get stepped on, intentionally by a kid with some latent homicidal tendencies or accidentally by a guy who just wants to pull out of his driveway. But regardless of the motivation, the result is the same, another cicada has joined the choir triumphant and gone to meet his maker. Put another way, after seventeen years, there’s a rush of freedom and then splat.

And as the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us, there are times when we wonder if our lives have as much meaning as a cicada. I mean, we think and study and learn, but then splat, we die just like the fools. And we work hard our entire lives to leave a small legacy for our families, and then splat, they spend it all on lottery tickets. In other words, often it seems as though all our efforts are no better than chasing the wind. And even though I believe feeling this kind of frustration is just part of being human and not a cicada, I think it’s important to remember that there’s a God who stands above the apparent emptiness of life, and not only does he secure our future, if we look to him for direction, he gives meaning to the present.