There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil – this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure for ever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.(Eccl. 3:1-14 NIV)
The poem about time (3:1-8) reminds us that circumstances, moods and experiences can change. The one experiencing the change needs to adjust, and those witnessing the change to others need to adjust. For example, Job’s friends saw his suffering as an opportunity to speak about the grand questions of God and the concept of suffering and evil. They lost sight of the impact of suffering on a human being. They sought to speak truth, but it was the wrong season. They failed to adjust and the damage was done.
Our way of relating to God and to our neighbour will have to adjust according to season. If someone is going through a time to mourn and we expect them to be in a time to dance, then we are unwise and insensitive.
Our working is different when we are building up than when we are tearing down.
‘Because we are committed to arrange life the way we want it and to avoid what we do not prefer, many of us remain inflexible and unskilled in the wisdom of seasons.’ The preacher wants to make us aware of the changing seasons because we are apt to ignore them. Many of our frustrations arise from our blindness to the change of seasons, or to the pain or joy of them, and we struggle to adjust our expectations.
So committed are we to want to act within the confines of our preferred seasons, we have to be taught that God sends us other seasons. When we enter a season that is not to our choosing or liking, we turn to ask God ‘why is this happening?’ Why is it that when we have what we consider is a favourable season we just accept it without question? Why not ask the Lord why is this moment so pleasant and enjoyable, I don’t quite understand it? All seasons come from the hand of an all loving God. In every season whether we consider favourable or unfavourable, the preacher says:
I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil– this is the gift of God.(Eccl. 3:12-13 NIV)
Each season is a gift of God’s grace and we have to learn to adjust to the rhythms of grace. We need God’s wisdom to know when it is right to speak or to be silent, and to discern the appropriateness of every action related to the season.
Isn’t that what the preacher is trying to teach us in Ecc.? Finding joy in our lot in life involves accepting the providential season that God has sent us, and seeking to act wisely and appropriately in that season. Paul expressed this way in the NT:
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.(Phil. 4:12 NIV)
There is no better time than now to be content. God has ordained this ‘now’ and the circumstances of this ‘now’.
Lord there have been times when I have prayed for You to take me out of some circumstances when really I should have prayed that You would take me through. There have been times when I wanted different because I thought it would be better, I thought I had the wisdom to discern. Lord help me to trust in You and to find satisfaction in the lot in life that You have given because I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.