A Time for Everything

We recognize that it’s a bit of a cliché to say that “time is flying by,” but if you’re like me, you may find yourself shocked that we have already entered the month of October. The sun is going down earlier, and the leaves are beginning to change. And although I am ready for cooler temperatures and the beautiful colors of the fall season, it seems that, in a sense, time has gotten away, and I find myself wondering where the year has gone. But the starkness of the change in seasons, and the many different things that accompany this transition, led us to consider the book of Ecclesiastes and the incredible wisdom it contains.

This week we are going to look at what may be a familiar passage from Ecclesiastes. This selection is one that considers the beautiful way in which God–in His wisdom, sovereignty and providence–guides us through different moments in our walk with Him. These moments we go through in life, which play out like scenes from a movie in which we are the main character, are characterized by all kinds of emotions and experiences that we encounter.

We’ve all gone through these times and could give countless examples of periods in our lives where we have experienced incredible joy, intense suffering, patient (or if you’re like me, impatient) waiting, loneliness, confusion, doubt or any of the countless other issues that can dominate our spiritual and emotional lives.

The writer of Ecclesiastes understands this uniquely human experience, as most certainly does the God who created all of humanity and took on human flesh Himself, which inspired this biblical writer. And if you read the entire book of Ecclesiastes, you will find it surprisingly, if not shockingly, honest. It’s a book that is not afraid to examine the human life and the human experience in a raw and transparent fashion. In the third chapter of this fascinating book, we find a passage that considers this specific feature of all our lives.

Let’s look at this passage together before we briefly consider a handful of conclusions about the text and how we can apply it to our lives as we enter into a new season…

[1] For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
[2] a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
[3] a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
[4] a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
[5] a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
[6] a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
[7] a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
[8] a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ESV)

As we see the leaves begin to change colors and fall to the ground, and as darkness arrives sooner in the evening and the cooler temperatures make us reach for our favorite sweatshirt, let us remember that God is the one who orders our lives. He is the one that the causes the sun to rise in the morning and set in the evening. He sets the planets in motion so that the earth can be nourished and sustained through the cycle of the seasons. He is in control and has given everything a time and a purpose.

But if you’re reading this and find yourself going through a difficult time that is defined by experiences and emotions far more serious than a change in weather or seasons… and if the leaves falling is the least of your concerns as you find yourself in the trenches of spiritual warfare, or relational strife, financial burden or physical suffering, remember the words of Ecclesiastes 3, “For everything there is a season, and a time…” Be encouraged that this difficult time is but one fleeting vignette in the greater story of God’s grand plan of redemption and restoration.

The nature of this life, and the brokenness that accompanies living it, is such that we will experience wild swings where rivers of joy and blessings can quickly dry up and give way to deserts of loneliness and suffering. And the writer of Ecclesiastes is brutally honest about this being an inevitable facet of the human experience, and one that we can’t just ignore or avoid because we are Christians. But just two verses later, he delivers this beautifully hopeful reminder: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Eccl. 3:11)

We can’t always know God’s reasoning for allowing us to go through difficult times. It’s often unclear how the suffering and the many trials and tribulations we encounter are for our good and for God’s glory, as the Apostle Paul says in the book of Romans. But what we can know is that we have a good God who has prescribed a proper time and place for all things and has set eternity in our hearts. And we can trust, with assurance, that one day the distant memories of the hardships we face in this life will turn to rejoicing at the revelation of the heavenly purposes God was bringing about through the struggles that we couldn’t make sense of at the time. And as we reflect on the kind of moment in which we find ourselves right now, whether it be good, bad or somewhere in between, let us draw from the wisdom of Ecclesiastes. As creatures with “eternity [in our] hearts,” let us also place eternity over our eyes as we seek to have a heavenly perspective. Then we will have the strength and wisdom to remain steadfast, content and hopeful as we encounter the many seasons life has in store for us all.

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