In Living Life Backward, David Gibson invites readers to examine their lives by considering that death is the inevitable reality that we must all face. Despite this apparently pessimistic outlook, the author argues that the central theme in Ecclesiastes is the call to fully enjoy all the joys of life while keeping in mind that all these pleasures are only bland morsels in comparison to what we will experience in eternity. Gibson summarizes the major ideas presented by the Preacher with four words namely pleasure, pain, perspective, and preparation. Firstly, we need to recognize that we have a good God who created a good world that reflected His goodness but was tarnished by man’s sin. Despite creation being polluted by sin, the pleasures of this life are not completely lost thus we are to readily and thankfully enjoy all God’s gifts in the different facets of life. Secondly, we should not be surprised by the reality of pain as we witness the numerous tensions, brokenness, and setbacks in our fallen world. Although pain is to be expected, we need to learn to place our hope in God who will one day restore and transform all things to and for His glory. Thirdly, all that we undertake should be done with a God-fearing perspective knowing that we are His creatures and all that we come to possess and enjoy are based upon His lavish grace. Lastly, we need be prepared to give account before God when we stand before His throne thus all of life should be taken seriously but not somberly. Each chapter of the book examines a section of Ecclesiastes of which the author succinctly highlights the pertinent parts of the passage that correlate with these four prominent themes.
I eagerly recommend this book to all Christians as the conflicting messages we receive in our contemporary culture are at odds with what the Preacher teaches us. The two prevailing viewpoints in culture aligns closely with the two extremes that Ecclesiastes precisely warns us against. The first is frantically trying to squeeze out all that life offers by pursuing endless workhours, frivolous partying, or innumerable hobbies. The other end of the spectrum is fatalistic pessimism that leads to disinterest and apathy towards all things good that God has placed in our lives. Gibson points out that Ecclesiastes teaches us to take the middle road by focusing our energies on living in the present but with the understanding that everything will quickly pass away and we will face judgement before God. Armed with this perspective, we are released from chasing our insatiable desire for more while energizing us to get up from our beds to appreciate the bountiful pleasures that God has blessed us with. The pleasures of this life are not intended to make us want to live forever in this fallen world but to give us a foretaste of the much greater glories that we will experience in the new heaven and new earth.
In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a review copy of this book from Crossway.