Ecclesiastes 1:13 (ESV)

13 And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.

The Preacher decides to proceed with his investigation. This is no superficial inquiry. He attends to it with all his heart. His entire being is preoccupied with it. In the process he employs the wisdom he has been given—a wisdom that does not reach beyond that wisdom which is found in creation. It remains a mere human wisdom.

The investigation the Preacher is about to engage in, pertains to all of life. Everything we observe as human beings is relevant to this research endeavour. The intensity of this inquiry is here indicated by the words: ‘to search out. This examination is both difficult and demanding an unhappy business.

This was not the case prior to the Fall. The reason such a research endeavour has become so difficult is precisely because our minds and our wisdom have been corrupted on account of sin—so much so that fallen man actually tends to resist true wisdom.

We should take care not to misunderstand the second part of this verse. The text may leave one under the impression that the Lord imposes this investigation on man in order to torment us—to further complicate our lives. This is certainly not the case. The Lord is not some sadistic tyrant. From the creation of the first man he gave us the assignment to explore and cultivate creation. We have been commissioned to investigate what is happening on Earth. For people this often feels like an affliction, but this is not because of God but rather because of our own shortcomings. We have brought sin into the world, and one of the consequences of this is that our minds have been corrupted by it. Sin has affected us to such an extent that not only do we find doing a lot of research wearying, but we also experience great difficulty finding solutions to our difficulties. Sin also causes great misery and sorrow in the relationships between people in this fallen world. Research can therefore also lead to further unsettling discoveries—especially if one remains honest in his search.