Wednesday, July 20, 2022
Whether you know it or not, you’re probably familiar with the first few verses of Ecclesiastes 3:
1 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.
I like about half the things listed, and would rather not have the other half, but life just doesn’t work that way. We have to take the bad with the good.
I was at a funeral last Saturday when these verses were read. It seems like this passage is mostly referenced during difficult times – because we don’t need to be reminded about these things during happy times. When someone is born, we don’t want to be reminded that they will eventually die. But when someone dies, we need to be reminded that this world has both good and bad, and we can’t just pick and choose what happens in life.
Verse 11 goes on to say, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men…”.
Does this mean that death is beautiful?; that cancer is beautiful?; that problems are beautiful? No, not in themselves. But the rest of the verse goes on to say that God has set eternity in the hearts of men. I think that means these experiences make us long for the time when these problems will be a thing of the past. When there will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain – in the Kingdom of God.
We mentioned Romans 8:22-23 a couple of days ago, which says, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.”
In addition to pain and suffering being consequences of the Curse (Genesis 3) as a result of sin, I believe God uses these to help us long for His coming kingdom. This longing helps us refocus our lives on following Him. It also helps us not place too much importance on the temporary things this world has to offer.
James 1: 2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
I believe this points out that difficulties we face in life can produce perseverance, helping us mature in our Christian walk, and helping us become more persistent in living for the Lord. And if we finish strong – living our lives for the Lord – we will be in His kingdom, experiencing delight for eternity.
So because difficulties can draw us closer to God, which will cause us to live more dedicated lives for Him, with the ultimate result of being in His kingdom, in this sense, everything works together for our ultimate good, and is therefore beautiful. Even though it might seem like something stinks at the time, it can be beautiful – but only if it makes you long for the Kingdom of God and then live your life devoted to following Him.
If difficult times make us resent that God permitted these times, and if we reject God as a result of this, then we can look forward to Ecclesiastes 3:17 which says, “…God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked…”
I’d like to challenge you to let the difficult times draw you closer to God. But it’s entirely up to you how you respond.
- What difficult times have you been through? What good times have you enjoyed?
- What can be learned through the good times? What can be learned through the difficult days (and seasons)?
- Looking back on your own life (or the example of someone else) can you see times when the trials and hardships have prompted spiritual growth and perseverance and a re-focusing on what truly matters, including of course eternal life with God and Jesus in the coming Kingdom of God?