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Every year, as summer fades into fall, I tend to develop seasonal affective disorder depression. I find it no coincidence that those letters spell the word sad. Yet as the beauty of the world crumbles from grassy greens into burnt orange crisps of fall, my body has a hard time adjusting to the newest bite of the wind. While the days grow shorter and the nights ever-increasingly taunt their ghostly figures and shadows, my mind longs for the warm summer oasis of tender days and bright nights. I have a hard time moving on from season to season.
In Ecclesiastes chapter 3, beginning at verse 1, our unknown author writes about these days and times. On the surface, this book can appear a bit depressing because it describes the essence of fading beauty in this life. Everything is meaningless, he says, but everything also has a specific time and purpose. No matter what life throws at us, our author begs us to understand that we can trust in God in the good or bad because there is a destined season and destination for all of it. And for myself, that was something I never really noticed.
How can God ordain beauty for the time and season of everything? How can He turn messes into messages and tests into testimonies?
Though I never saw this revelation before, take a look at what Ecclesiastes 3:1 of the New International Version declares: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NIV, emphasis added).
And I don’t know about you, but it brings me such comfort to know that not only is God’s timing perfect, but He ordains purpose in every season. Did you read that correctly?
Amber’s timing is not perfect, but the Lord’s is and will always prevail. I may not see hope in every circumstance, but He faithfully declares and ordains reason for every single thing we experience here on earth.
Because if I’m honest with you, these past few decades have not been easy. I’ve questioned the goodness in every season and feel like I’m stuck in a bad one. One where weeds pop out of nowhere, and I wonder where they have come from. But make no mistake, our God can use anything for our good and His glory.
And as Romans 8:28 in The Passion Translation promises, “So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together for good, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose” (Romans 8:28, TPT). Every detail of our lives weaves into good. The Aramaic for good here is harmony. And we confidently know that God works all things together harmoniously.
In Ecclesiastes 3:2-8, as our stanza continues, it appears that life presents times and seasons for mountains and valleys, highs and lows, good times and bad. There is a time to be born and die, plant and uproot, kill and heal, tear down and build, weep and dance, scatter stones and gather them, embrace and refrain, search and give up, keep and throw away, tear and mend, be silent and speak, love and hate, war and peace (Ecclesiastes 3:2-8, New Living Translation).
Yet while all of these things occur, one thing stands out to me about every season of life: Not only are we called to live and own our emotions, but no matter the outcome, it is our ability to respond that changes everything.
God can and will use anything for His glory, but we must be open and willing to be used in the season and timing He presents.
I’ve heard it said before that a day can be good or bad, but the outcome rests in your ability and choice to respond. As John Piper in his book Think denotes, “Thinking isn’t an enemy of feeling or an obstacle to love. God gave us minds not to stifle affection, but to cultivate deep, mature, godly affections.” Piper urges us to see the good in every situation, starting with our thinking about said situation.
In Ephesians 3:2-8, this is why it is so clear that life can be good or bad, happy or sad, hard or easy, but each of those are seasons of life we must be willing to accept.
“There is a time to be born and a time to die. There is a time to plant and a time to pull up plants. There is a time to kill and a time to heal. There is a time to destroy and a time to build. There is a time to cry and a time to laugh. There is a time to be sad and a time to dance with joy. There is a time to throw weapons down and a time to pick them up. There is a time to hug someone and a time to stop holding so tightly. There is a time to look for something and a time to consider it lost. There is a time to keep things and a time to throw things away. There is a time to tear cloth and a time to sew it. There is a time to be silent and a time to speak. There is a time to love and a time to hate. There is a time for war and a time for peace” (Ephesians 3:2-8, Easy Read Version).
Birth is easy; it brings new life, and with it, the joy of a baby’s first cry. Death is hard, full of pain, heartache, and loss. Yet some may argue, birth can also be hard and death can be easy. A baby’s adorable smile soon turns into shrieking yelps of annoyance. The pain a mother goes through to birth a child cannot all be taken away by the presence of her child. In the same manner, death for those who belong to Christ can bring eternal joy and reward. The hard fight is over; they have finished running the race well.
But the outcome and season, you see, are all dependant on how you accept or interpret the matter at hand. The examples here in verses 2-8 are innumerable. To plant, uproot, kill, heal, tear down, build, and so on do not cease to exist. And what do we gain through/from all this toil, our author asks us (Ecclesiastes 3:9)?
We gain the beauty of trusting God in every season no matter His timing and trusting the process along the way. While we cannot comprehend it, we can be thankful and live life with joy, resting in the uncertainty that while seasons may change and fade, and time may come and go, our God is constant and will make every single thing/situation/life event, beautiful in its time.
“What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 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. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man” (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13, English Standard Version).
Today, if I am completely honest, the first part of these verses doesn’t sound too bad. It is not easy to trust God, but we know that though this toil of burden is challenging at times, God wants us to rely on Him for all things. His load is easy. His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). We can trust an unknown future or season with a known and steadfast God. It is simple to do good and live happy lives. But finding satisfaction in our toil to produce that joy? Seeing our toil as a gift from God? That is a challenge!
According to the Blue Letter Bible, the word “toil” comes from the Hebrew word amal, meaning “of all his labor.” It is the wearing effort, hence, or worry, whether of body or mind and a grievance, iniquity, sorrow, toil, travail, trouble, wearisome, wickedness. In its simplest form, it is used as toil, trouble, or labour. So if we are to find satisfaction (enjoy-raa, approve, consider) in this toil as a gift (matat- reward) of God, we must learn to trust and rely on Him in any and every season.
While it may not be easy, we can have confidence that in every season, there is room for our emotion and reaction, but there is also mighty room for learning to see God’s purpose behind it all. For we “know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere Him” (Ecclesiastes 3:14).
Though I do not love walking through difficult seasons like the one I’m in right now, or the fires I’ve gone through to get to where I am, one thing is certain: I still trust and believe my God, and in fact, these trials and hardships have only drawn me closer to Him. I fear and respect God like no other, and I rest assured that “whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before, and God will call the past to account” (Ecclesiastes 3:15).
My story is engraved in the palm of His hand, and my name is still called by His. No matter what season or time we are in, we can express the confidence that in every season, God is not only who He says He is, but that we can see beauty in everything at the right time.