To Everything There Is A Season
Ecclessiastes 3:1-8 states that to everything there is a season or an appointed time (zeman). The Hebrew word zeman means to be fixed or appointed. This passage lists many different experiences that we have in life, but interestingly they are paired in opposites. ‘There is a time to die and a time to live; a time to love and a time to hate, a time to plant and a time to reap; a time to weep and a time to laugh, and so on.’ All of these ‘moments’ have their appointed place in our lives. These pairing strike us odd because we unconsciously tend to want to have a life of uninterrupted goodness, where there is no pain or difficulties. This longing harkens back to our original nature we received (and experienced) in Eden. This longing is, in fact, the longing for heaven and is meant to be realized one day. But Ecclesiastes is not dealing with Eden. It is dealing with our life here and now in the present fallen state. As such, it has two important lessons to teach us.
Firstly, there is a rhythm to life. We need to discern what moment we are living in our lives. Is this a time to reap or is this a time to sow? Is this a time to begin a project or to wait and let things mature? Am I called to a time of letting go of things I had previously held onto, or is this a time to incorporate new things into my life? Knowing what ‘time’ it is, is an act of discernment and requires wisdom. An example is the denial of death that marks modern society. Having lost the sense of eternal life, it does not know how to deal with death. Often people are urged to immediately get to work when a loved one has died. But there needs to be a time of grieving which becomes a time of healing. We need to respect the ‘moment’ of our lives we are in.
Secondly, life will always be a mix of various experiences- some of which we would prefer not to go through. We can be tempted to construct a psuedo-religious outlook which thinks that life is going to always be happy. But that is not reality; there will be hardship and sorrow at times. But no matter what life looks like, God is always in control. To everything there is an appointed time. This passage should bring us great comfort. All that happens is not by accident and therefore must have a purpose, a meaning, even if we don’t immediately grasp it. In fact, the truth of Ecclesiastes is ultimately completed in the revelation of Christ. Death is real but in Christ, even the death of the Son of God finally becomes the source of eternal life. When good things happen to us we are glad and are able to give thanks to God. But God’s power works even in a world which has been marred by our sin. In Adam, sin brought brokenness into the world but God’s power and grace extend even into our brokenness and will ultimately bring good out of it. This is the promise of Rom 8:28. Death, sorrow and pain are never the final reality, resurrection is. To everything there is a season.