I find myself once again facing changes in life, a season has ended and a new one has begun. Thinking about seasons of life caused me to think about Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. This is one of the most well-known passages in the bible. Each observation can stand alone as a proverb of wisdom and at the same time as a whole paints a picture of life. Each of these verses have an obvious literal meaning, but they also can be viewed from a spiritual perspective. We can look at these times and seasons from both a physical and spiritual view. Think about each line as you read it.
1 To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; A time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to gain, and a time to lose; A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
7 A time to tear, and a time to sew; A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; A time of war, and a time of peace.
Ecclesiastes means preacher or teacher and was written by Solomon who was the wisest man who ever lived. In the eight verses of this passage the preacher is reflecting on life seasons. This is not an all-inclusive list of life times, or seasons of life, but rather a sampling. These verses are a list of opposites. Some say each line is a positive and a negative. I would challenge you to consider, rather, that it is all a matter of perspective and context. For instance if I asked you to describe the spring season would you talk about flowers, birds singing, and the newness of life or would you talk about yard weeds, flooded basements, and tornadoes? While all of these are true of the spring season, your view of life determines how you might respond. And it may also determine if you find joy in or simply endure the season of life you are in.
There are four truths that can help us embrace the seasons of life. In this post we’ll look at changes seasons bring, the impossibility to remain in one season, the importance of letting go and a new season begins when another ends. I want to encourage you to view this message from the perspective of eternity. By focusing on the eternal, the times and seasons we experience take on a new meaning. To place value and purpose on every moment we have in life can give us the ability to have joy and embrace the time we are in.
I. SEASONS BRING CHANGES
The passage begins with to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: God has given us an instrument to measure life in the form of time and seasons (Gen. 1:14). God uses every season for His purpose; nothing is wasted.
Every season is marked by an event. Spring began when the earth reached a certain point in space. Life seasons begin with events, either planned or unexpected.
The seasons of life are not as predictable as the clock or seasons of weather. In fact, this very moment you may be in a different season of life than the person next to you. (Maybe you are just starting school, changing jobs, retired, or going back to work, about to get married, about to have a baby….) You can wake up in the morning in one season and before breakfast, be in another. Life can change in an instant.
There are the two defining time points in our seasons of life on earth: a time to be born and a time to die. Every person alive today is somewhere between these two points. The time spent between these opposites are filled with various seasons that intertwine with the lives of other people.
To use a phrase I have heard, “life is about the dash.” When you look at a tombstone it has the date born, dash, died. Life is what happens between those two dates.
The birth of a child is a time of celebration. When children are born parents share the news with all their friends and family. There are baby showers, cards, and gifts. Dads pass out cigars and beam with pride. As if they did any of the work to have a baby. This is a wonderful event.
But the birth bringing new life on earth isn’t the only season occurring. Mom and Dad begin a new season as well. The time of parenthood brings with it loss and changes. There is lost sleep and changing diapers. Beyond that, when a first child is born the family dynamic changes. A parent’s life is no longer their own. If there is an older sibling, that child may lose a sense of family placement as the newborn requires so much attention.
The goal of raising any child is to raise them from the cradle to a point of being self-sufficient. Between these two points in time is the hard work of training, disciplining, and teaching the child. The desired result is a fully functioning adult that continues the cycle of parenthood.
In a spiritual sense the day you accept Jesus as your Lord and savior is the day of your spiritual birth. The heavens rejoice when a person is born again into the kingdom of heaven. Our heavenly father eagerly accepts us into the family and He did have a lot to do with both your physical and spiritual birth.
The beginning of a Christian life brings with it many changes. The whole world is suddenly new and strange. It becomes the responsibility of the church family to raise the infants in Christ. And like parents, members of the church family do not always get things right. We should be grateful for the Holy Spirit to help and advise us. He will guide us as seasons bring change.
II. IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO REMAIN IN THE SAME SEASON (INDEFINITELY)
Any farmer or gardener will tell you that a time to plant is a lot of work. It is more than a matter of throwing some seeds on the ground and walking away. The ground must be suitable for the desired crop. The location has to have the right amount of sun and water. Then there is the work of preparing the ground so the seeds can take proper root. When the planting is done there is still a lot of work to be done. Watering, weeding, worry, and wonder all part of the time spent waiting on seeds to grow.
Depending on the crop planted harvest may come in weeks, months, or years. Early crops such as spinach, lettuce, and radishes are harvested in a matter of weeks. Grains take months to mature. Fruit trees will not produce for years after being planted.
It is now spring time, so inevitably we will soon see farmers in the fields preparing soil and planting seeds. Suppose the farmer toils through long days and late nights to get his all of his seed in the ground. After his seeds are planted, he gives a big sigh of relief. Tomorrow, will he head back out to the fields to plant again? No, he will enter into a new season. The season of planting has ended. If he were to disrupt the planted seeds, the harvest would never come about.
It is noticeable in our culture of immediate gratification, some have become confused about this concept of planting and harvesting. It is often forgotten that seeds cannot be planted unless they have been harvested and a harvest cannot happen without seeds being planted. Ever notice the state lottery never runs out of money and the local casinos have the biggest parking lots around? This is a result of those who want to believe a person can harvest without first planting.
So how do we get to a time of harvest? What happens between planting and harvesting? We rely on the one who has the power to take the planted seeds, transform them into a tiny seedling, and in proper time, turn them into a strong, healthy, fruitful crop. In other words, in a spiritual sense we enter into a season of prayer.
Understanding and focusing on the reality that a harvest only comes after a season of planting can help us embrace a season of prayer, and planting spiritual seeds. Praying will result in a harvest at the proper time. And after praying, waiting on the time of harvest will be much more tolerable because prayers were sown in fertile ground. Through prayer, we can turn over our hard work and ask God to bless the labor of our hands and bring life to the seeds that were planted. We can ask him to fulfill His purpose during this season of waiting. We can ask him to reveal his purpose, moment by moment, so we are always prepared for his service. It’s during these seasons of prayer, when our faith can be strengthened, our hearts can be renewed and our joy can be restored. By the way, how is your prayer life? Do you have one? Maybe you are reading this and you’ve never prayed before and you are thinking, “I don’t know how.” Or perhaps you are wondering “why pray? God doesn’t listen to me anyway.” Let me assure you, God is listening and he is still in the business of answering prayer! I have a couple of things for you to consider: It is possible you have not had a prayer answered because it was never spoken by you. It is also possible you have missed God’s answer to a prayer because you did not listen for it.
Even if we pray and trust God the best we are capable of doing, it is possible that we may not see the result of some of the seeds we plant in this lifetime. Like an old fruit tree planted generations ago, some of our work in this life will be appreciated by those that come after us. To believe that a person can stay in an unchanging season of harvest will inevitably lead to disappointment.
It probably makes sense that It Is Not Possible To Remain In the Same Season, but I’d like to look at a couple more examples we can draw upon from Solomon’s teaching:
A time to gain, and a time to lose. I have seen a common stage kids go through when they want it all. It can be maddening going through the checkout line with a toddler in the basket wanting the candy, gum, toys, colorful items, and glossy magazines. Coaching a child through the “mine” or “I want” stage is taxing. Part of the confusion for kids is that sometimes parents take something away as a punishment. That may cause a child to think of “no” as a punishment instead of learning self-discipline. To gain is not always a reward and to lose is not always a punishment.
Another valuable lesson is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak: Sitting with someone and silently listening can be a great healer for the person. All too often well intended people miss the opportunity to listen or sit silently with someone in need of comfort. A properly timed and appropriate word can encourage and strengthen a wounded spirit. Learning how to listen is a great skill that should be encouraged. And sometimes silence truly is golden.
III. WHEN TO LET GO IS AS IMPORTANT AS WHEN TO HOLD ON.
Good stewardship of property includes removing or breaking down structures that have out lived their usefulness and build up or repair what is needed.
In the same sense it is sometimes necessary to do away with or modify old traditions and build up new ones. As an example, when my children were younger they were given Easter baskets with various goodies such as a chocolate bunny, marshmallow peeps, jelly beans, and such. There was also egg coloring and Easter egg hunts. Then there was the ham dinner with the all the trimmings. Now that they are adults, we’ve let go of the tradition of hiding eggs in the yard for them to find. Now it is more probable they will bring a dish to serve at dinner.
It is important to not allow traditions to prevent us from growing and maturing. If we focus on the tradition rather than the growing we will not mature as God intended.
As we grow and mature we learn to not hold onto everything we acquire. A principle we teach our children is what is important to hold onto and what is junk. Trying to keep everything causes clutter, confusion, and an unhealthy living condition. The difficult part is learning how to let go of things that are useful but no longer practical.
Ever see one of those shows about hoarders? Some people find it difficult to throw anything away. The same is true of our spiritual and emotional well-being, we need to toss out old habits and sinful behavior in order to keep what is good and grow in Christ and have healthy relationships. It is also vital to understand when it is time to let go of past experiences even ones that are good. As an example, have you ever tried to repeat a mountain top prayer session you’ve had, or a time of worship that was exhilarating and you felt so close to God. While those moments are great, it is not possible to move into the next season without leaving the current one. Don’t be a spiritual hoarder. God wants us to move forward in life as He has much more to offer us than a single experience. We must come to Jesus open-handed. We must let go of everything to hold on to Jesus.
IV. ALL SEASONS BEGIN WHEN ANOTHER SEASON ENDS
We all grieve losses in life. It is natural and healthy to mourn properly. The death of a loved one begins the season of mourning. I grieve the loss of friends and family that have died, but I grieve the most for those that I will never see again because we will spend eternity in two very different places. This is why I share the Gospel message with as many as possible whenever and however possible. I am reminded our time on earth is limited.
The opposite end of the life season is a time to die. Death is the final point in our seasons of life on earth. Death does not mark the end of an individual’s existence, it simply changes from the physical to the spiritual. This is the reality for every person. The choices made in this life will determine an eternity of reward or punishment. By following God through His son you will have eternal life. If you choose not to, you will face spiritual death. You only have this lifetime to decide.
At the end of your season on earth, where will you spend eternity? What about your spouse, your kids, your parents, your siblings, your friends? The Creator of the universe had a special plan for all of his creation, including man. Sin got in the way, but our loving Father has made a way for us to spend the only season that never ends, eternity, in His presence. If you don’t know Him today, His heart is grieving…it is grieving over you. His love for you is so great, great enough to send his son, Jesus, to die as payment for your sin.
By focusing on the eternal you are able to embrace the season you are in. By focusing on the temporal the best any person can accomplish is endure the seasons of life.
Rev. Burt Schwab