I remember an old song from the seventies that talked about how there is a time to be born and a time to die and the song described all the seasons of a lifetime. I imagine some of you remember that song as well, but did you know it is actually several verses from the Bible? Take a look.
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, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, (New International Version or NIV).
King Solomon is the author of Ecclesiastes and in a sense the book is a record of the King’s personal observations, experiences and thoughts on life. Well known Bible scholar and Pastor Chuck Swindoll from Insight For Living says that Ecclesiastes is a personal journal of King Solomon. I tend to agree as it really does read like a private journal. As many of you know King Solomon was favored by God to be the wisest and wealthiest man of his era and perhaps of all time. He was a man who knew how to live well. Let’s explore what he has to say.
There is a time for everything is how this book begins. I am sure that there were periods of my life when I wished that I had time for everything! When I was a child time seemed to pass so slowly but now that I am in my sixties time seems to have gone by too quickly. Wasn’t it only yesterday that I was pregnant with my first child and so excited I could hardly wait for her birth yet frightened that I would not be a good Mom? Wasn’t it just last week that I was longing for a day away from my growing family and two dogs and the business of life? Oh how time in my life has flown by.
A time to be born and a time to die. We have no control over the decision to be born, we just plop into the air and are born. We also don’t have control over the day of our death unless we commit suicide and even in suicide a person often doesn’t feel in control of the circumstances in their life. Yet we are here and we must continue to make that journey through life until our death.
A time to plant and a time to uproot. Every Spring I am reminded of this verse. We plant flowers and vegetable gardens and then tend to them all summer until autumn when we harvest them. There is something magical about planting flowers and watching them grow into full bloom. Yet there will come a time of pulling them out of the ground. Vegetables are harvested and stored for winter use and flowers are cut back to the ground after the hard freeze because their time of bloom is over. Our lives are like that as well, don’t you think? We start projects or friendships and then we finish the project or move away from a community to begin again somewhere else. My Mother used to tell me to bloom where I am planted. In other words she was saying that life is constantly changing and so you should make a difference for good where you are before you are pulled away from that season and into the next season of your life. She was a wise woman.
A time to kill and a time to heal. Obviously King Solomon is not advocating that we kill someone just so that we can be healed. But in a sense we do need to kill some things that are not good for us. For instance sin. We are to spend some time acknowledging our sin, wrestle with it and overcome it. We should kill bad habits too. We should constantly be working on improving ourselves to be holy and righteous. Of course we cannot do this alone; rather we need the Holy Spirit’s help in overcoming evil with good. At the ending of the battle that rages against our souls is when true healing comes. Jesus is our healer. I don’t know about you but I would rather spend a season in healing than in the midst of a raging battle!
A time to tear down and a time to build. I must admit that I have been through some pretty rough battles in my lifetime. Those battles caused some damage and so I have had to spend a season or two cleaning out and getting rid of my old self or a toxic person. After dealing with the tear-down I then had to build-up in the faith. It takes courage to face the truth sometimes but once we do face things we can rebuild our lives. I know that during my build-up season I spend a lot of time reading the Bible for strength and guidance.
A time to weep and a time to laugh. Time, talk and tears are often necessary during the rebuilding of our lives before a time of laughter comes. So never be ashamed of your tears as they are the water that your pain filled soul needs.
A time to mourn and a time to dance. I just love this part of the passage because it reminds me that even the wisest and riches of men felt sorrow and mourned. Perhaps he mourned as I do because our loved ones no longer walk the earth beside us. Perhaps he mourned over the sins he committed that had deep consequences to many people. Perhaps he mourned because he watched someone else commit sins that hurt many people. Whatever the reasons for his mourning, just like me, he had a period of mourning before he had a season of dancing. Oh how I prefer the seasons of dancing rather than the seasons of mourning, don’t you?
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them. When I read this passage I think of being a little child and how I began to throw my toys around my bedroom because I was unhappy that my Mom told me to clean my room. I threw a little pity party for myself. I cried and I got mad and I made my room a bigger mess. In the end, though, I still had to obey my Mom and I had to gather up all my belongings and make my room neat and organized. Sometimes as adults we do the same thing and we have to clean up our mess before we can move to the next season in our lives.
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. How do we know when or whom to embrace and when or whom not to embrace? It comes with maturity, not from world thinking but from the Bible. As we grow up and mature as Christians we realize that there are some things and some people we can trust and can enjoy. There are also some things and some people who are not good for us to have or be around. It’s our season of discernment.
A time to search and a time to give up. It is interesting to me that Solomon mentions this season in life. I believe that we all have times when we search out our purpose in life, when we follow a dream or make a path into a new experience. We have to know when to give up as well. For instance, in my strong desire to restore my marriage there came a time when I realized that restoration was simply not going to happen and so it was time to give up the dream and move on in my life. Only God can help us find out the time to give up.
A time to keep and a time to throw away. I find this funny. I was just thinking this morning how I have spent the past sixty years building up, collecting books, quilts, and even new skills and yet when my time comes to leave this world my children will probably throw it all away. Yes, there are some things worth keeping but most of our possessions are dispensable.
A time to tear and a time to mend. Sometimes relationships are ripped away from us and we are left with a big hole in our heart. We need to recognize that healing can only go so far until we mend that relationship especially if we contributed to the breakup. I have found that there are seasons of tearing away from toxic people or behaviors that must come before healing and mending is finished. This is a tender time and only God can help you through this process.
A time to be silent and a time to speak. Have you ever had a friend who knew when to speak to you and when to be silent? What a gift that can be. There are times in our lives when we can do more damage by saying something than if we remain silent. I think sometimes the greatest act of love we can give is our silence.
A time to love and a time to hate. I find that when I search the scriptures I can see things that God hates because He says that He hates them. I also find where God states what He loves. I want to hate what God hates and love what God loves, don’t you? When we come to the point in life where we view everything that we can with God’s love then we are ready for the last season of our lives.
A time for war and a time for peace. The last observation Solomon makes is that there is a time to fight, to have war, to battle within ourselves and with others. A time to fight for what is right, to fight for what is holy and then comes peace. Humans have been fighting God since the day of our births but true peace in our lives comes only through the blood of Jesus Christ. When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior then and only then will we have true and eternal peace with God. That is the journey ended and the battle won. Solomon continues.
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, Ecclesiastes 3:9-12, (NIV).
I couldn’t have said it better King Solomon.