Today I awakened half way around the world to learn about yesterday’s tragic death of 48 year old Whitney Houston – 6 time Grammy Award winning singer and 2 time Emmy Award winning actress.
As I read reports about her, I was reminded that her early heights of success (170 million albums sold; biggest U.S. single of all time) were matched by her later years of plummeting popularity due to her drug use, occasional wild and bizarre public behavior, and tumultuous marriage. She confessed to abusing cocaine, marijuana and pills, and her once amazingly pure, beautiful, effortless voice became raspy and hoarse – unable to hit the high notes as she had done for 10 years from the mid-80’s to the late 90’s when she was one of the world’s best selling pop singers.
As I write, the cause of her death has not been announced but one report says that prescription drugs were in the room where she was found. I hope – I pray – that Whitney Houston did not intentionally take her own life. In her emotional pain, I wonder if she told herself that life is meaningless and succumb to voices that told her to end it all. I would rather believe that this was an accidental overdose. Perhaps we will never know.
What we do know is that an ancient king reached the depths of despair and wrote a little book about it. His name? The Jews and Christians call him Solomon and see him as a king. The Muslims call him Sulaiman (or Sulayman) and see him as a prophet, as well as a king. His book of despair? Ecclesiastes. In it, he writes of his pursuit of fulfillment:
“I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards.”
“I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me.”
“I amassed silver and gold for myself. . .”
“I acquired men and women singers. . .”
“I acquired. . .a harem. . .”
“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure.”
“I became greater by far than anyone. . .”
But then this man – presumably the richest and most famous man of his day (the man who had every pleasure money could buy) – said:
“I hated life. . .All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. . .I hated all the things I had toiled for. . .”
He says these words over and over again in his little book:
“Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
Meaningless. Futile. Empty. Folly. Madness.
But I am glad that this king also had moments when he realized that when all is said and done, true meaning for a life lived on this earth is to be found in God alone:
“Remember your Creator. . .”
“Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”
I pray that in the end, Whitney Houston remembered her Creator and Judge. I pray that she cried out to God to save and forgive her for every sin. I pray that she remembered what she sang in public just two days before she died, “Jesus Loves Me,” and that she cried out to him to save her. Because just like King Solomon/Sulayman wrote some three thousand years ago, without God, all her money, all her awards, and all her fame are ultimately meaningless.