Solomon like to talk about toil. Toil, according to Merrium-Webster, is more than work. It is laborious, burdensome, and exhausting work. Toil also implies a grind. A lot of action with little or no forward progress. Yet we persist. To alleviate our pain, we shift our strategies. We set new goals and seek new positions, thinking these will finally fill our hearts. Surely, these will bring joy and put an end to our toil.
Not so, says Solomon. He says, “I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. 11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 (ESV)
The truth is that we have gotten it backward. The gift of joy does not come from our work, achievements, and possessions. It comes only from the love of God in our hearts. God “keeps him occupied with joy in his heart” through it.
Ravi Zacharias sums this up well, saying, “It is far easier for man to worship God in his toil than in his heart.”