To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1
While spending some quiet time last week, I read a posting from Experiencing God by Henry and Richard Blackaby. These words spoke directly to my heart.
The beauty in the way God designed the four seasons is that, though each one is distinct, they all work together to bring life and growth. Spring is a period of freshness and new life. Summer sees growth and productivity. Autumn is a time for harvesting the rewards of past labors. Winter is the season of dormancy and closure. Each season has its own unique beauty and makes a significant contribution to life.
Just as God planned seasons in nature, He planned seasons in life as well. Life has its springtime, when we begin new things and look excitedly toward the future. Summer comes and we work diligently in the heat of the day at all that God has assigned to us. With autumn comes the fruition of things begun at an earlier time in our lives. Winter brings an end to a particular period in our lives. Sometimes winter brings hardship, but we remain hopeful, for another spring is just around the corner.
In God's perfect design for our lives, He has planned for times of fruitfulness and activity. He will also build in times of quiet and rest. There will be times when He asks us to remain faithful doing the same work day after day. But there will also be periods of excitement and new beginnings. By God's grace, we will enjoy seasons of harvesting the fruit of our faithfulness. By God's grace, we will also overcome the cold winters of heartache and grief, for without winter there would be no spring. Just as it is with the seasons of nature, these seasons in our lives work together to bring about God's perfect will for each one of us.
Powerful words. I find so much peace in the fact that God is in control of every circumstance. As I look back at the past few years, there have been multiple iterations of "passing from season to season." My "spiritual track" has had its ups and downs.
Recently, as I found myself missing the family and going through the motions of a 5-month deployment away from home, I realized my overall demeanor was changing. I found myself getting a little bitter and was quick to get frustrated.
I do not find it ironic that I received this email (from "The Power of His Presence" by Ray Stedman) in my inbox this morning.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
We now have come to the third chapter, which describes the combination of opposites in our experience. Throughout this chapter the idea is propounded that there is an appropriate time for all of life's experiences.
There is an appropriate time for everything, the unpleasant as well as pleasant experiences. This is not merely a description of what happens in life; it is a description of what God sends. Many of us are familiar with the Four Spiritual Laws, the first of which is,
God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. That is the plan that is set forth here. All along, the Searcher is saying that God desires to bring joy into human experience. Many people think Ecclesiastes is a book of gloom and pessimism because of the findings based on the writer's limited view of those things
under the sun, the visible things of life. But that is not the message of the book. God intends us to have joy, and His program to bring it about includes all these opposites.
If you look carefully, you will see that these eight opening verses gather around three major divisions that correspond, amazingly enough, to the divisions of our humanity: body, soul, and spirit.
The first four pairs deal with the body:
a time to be born and a time to die (Ecclesiastes 3:2). Notice how this applies to the physical life. None of us asked to be born; it was something done to us, apart from us. None of us asks to die; it is something God determines. So this is the way we should view this list of opposites, as a list of what God thinks we ought to have. It begins by pairing birth and death as the boundaries of life
under the sun.
Then the Searcher moves into the realm of the soul with its functions of thinking, feeling, and choosing—the social areas—and all the interrelationships of life that flow from that. Verse 4 tells us there is
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. All these things follow closely, and they are all appropriate.
No one is going to escape the hurts and sorrows of life is what he is saying here. God chose them for us. In a fallen world it is right that there will be times of hurt, of sorrow and weeping. The last six of these opposites relate to the spirit, to the inner decisions, the deep commitments. There is
a time to search [for work, marriage, new friends] and a time to give up (Ecclesiastes 3:6). There comes a time in life when we should curtail certain friendships or change our jobs, for instance, and lose what we had in the past. It is proper and appropriate that these times should come.
All of this is God's wonderful plan for your life. The problem, of course, is that it is not our plan for our life. If we were given the right to plan our lives we would have no unpleasantness at all. But that would ruin us. God knows that people who are protected from everything almost invariably end up being impossible to live with; they are selfish, cruel, vicious, shallow, and unprincipled. God sends these things in order that we might be taught. There is a time for everything, the Searcher says.
Another posting on the same verse...interesting!
Father, thank You for all the experiences of life that You have planned for me, so that I might be conformed to the image of Your Son.
My experience along the "journey of faith" has been cyclical. As I look back at the past 15 years of life, there are spiritual highs and spiritual lows. I think it is interesting that when I was at the low point in my life (right after Sara passed away), I felt the closest to God.
As I read back through some of the old blogs (i.e. Bring the Rain, Refiner's Fire, & The Darker the Night, etc.), I can tell you that God was speaking through me. Those blogs came to be from experiences like this. I would feel pulled to the computer. I would sit down and my fingers would start typing - requiring no conscious thought. After I was done typing, I read back through the postings and could not believe what was typed. Never in my life had I been a conduit of God's word like that.
As I moved beyond that low point and embraced the "new normal" of life, I gradually could do more on my own - not being totally dependent on God to make it through the day. As I "did more" on my own, I "needed" God less. Sounds bad, but this was my experience. Looking back 2+ years, I am nowhere as near to God as I once was.
These two back-to-back postings have helped me realize that these different seasons are normal - and part of this life God has for us.
As I sit in my room, alone, half way around the globe from my family, I am making a choice. I am choosing to start the uphill climb towards another "faith peak" on my journey.
What "season of life" are you currently in? If you are experiencing the brunt of a harsh winter season, remember... "without the winter, there would be no spring."