There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
This is very familiar water to be sure. It was even set to music in a popular song by Pete Seeger called “Turn, turn, turn (To Everything There Is a Season)”. This song became an international hit the year I was born, 1965. It apparently has the distinction of being the number one hit with the oldest lyrics, most of which were taken verbatim from this passage.
The passage is so familiar that it is tempting to blow right through this water and move on to more challenging rapids, but I have been surprised many times in the past by seemingly “boring” rapids…so let see where this one, and God, leads.
This passage sets out several pairs of opposites, suggesting that there is a time for all things, even opposite ends of the spectrum like peace and war. The tricky part, and the part that this passage does not include, is how we are to discern when the time is right for each opposite end of the pendulum swing. I am too young to remember, but apparently this song was used to advocate, for peace during the Vietnam war. I will not delve into the murky and dangerous waters of politics and war, but it seems that this passage could be used to justify war or peace.
Water comes in somewhat tangentially through the verse about weeping…”a time to weep and a time to laugh”. In past reflections I have explored the fact that tears, and weeping, often describe soul-wrenching emotional outpourings…samples of our souls. This is alluding to something that I have found true in my experience as a Christian. Our walk with God is not a linear journey, but rather non-linear with many hills and valleys that we must traverse. If we choose to dwell only in the valley we never experience the majesty of the mountain tops. The key is seeking God at the center of our seemingly tortured path.
So how do we get good at discerning the proper timing for events in our lives…when to laugh and when to cry? I think the only hope we have is to seek God’s face daily amidst the uncertainty of our journey. He will provide us with the confidence to “choose our line” to borrow from river rafting terminology. We must get good at reading the “river”, the One River from which true wisdom flows.
Prayer: God help us to discern the timing for events in our lives and have confidence that there is a time for everything.