“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”
To many of us in my generation, these verses are familiar because of the popular folk song written by Pete Seeger. That song became an anthem for the turbulent times of the 1960’s (I include the link to Judy Collin’s version because it is my favorite). The lyrics are a direct quote of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (except for the addition of the words: “turn, turn, turn”).
In the 1960’s, the world was divided into so many different factions (sound familiar?) that it seemed we would never feel united again. But, the listing of seasons in those verses gave us all a sense of peace, and the words made us feel that there was order to the chaotic world we lived in.
Then, I grew up and found out that this world doesn’t follow an orderly pattern. And, instead of coming one at a time, conflicting seasons tend to barge into our lives in messy piles.
I was a young wife and mother when my husband was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of cancer. In the blink of an eye, our world was rocked and I needed the “right” seasons to come. I needed “a time to mend” and “a time to mourn”.
But, at the same time, three innocent children looked to me for normalcy. Their teachers still assigned homework that they needed help with. Birthdays came and needed to be prepared for and celebrated. Meals had to be made every day and laundry had to be done.
Instead of the quiet seasons I desperately ached for, I got a jumbled mess of seasons I didn’t want. I had to weep and laugh, and mourn and dance, and love and hate all at once, while the doctors tore and mended and waged war on the cancer so that we could feel some peace in the end. And, I couldn’t get over the thought that: “This is not how it’s supposed to work!”
Last week, I had another such traffic jam of seasons. The chronic illness I suffer from was in an active mode which meant that I really needed “a time to mend”. In the middle of that, a season of fear hit as my daughter suffered a particularly difficult delivery. After days of complications, our new grandson was finally safely born and “a time to dance” was added to my growing list of seasons.
And then, an hour and a half after our precious new grandson entered this world, my dear friend lost her beautiful daughter in a car accident.
And, just like that, two awful seasons leapt in: “A time to mourn” and “a time to cry”.
As I struggled with my own pile of conflicting emotions, my darling friend was facing an even bigger and more awful pile of her own. For, in a very short period of time, she was being forced to live through an entire list of unwanted seasons all at once.
It seems I missed the messages of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and instead had focused on the beautiful flow of the words. God didn’t promise us that we’d get the seasons we wanted, or even that they’d arrive in a logical order. He simply stated that there would be many seasons in our lives. Some, we would welcome and wish they would last longer. And, some seasons would be painful and last far longer than we would choose. And, often God was the only one who could make sense out of them all.
So, for now I rest in the promise found a few verses later in Ecclesiastes 3:11 – “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”