Study The Bible With Me: Ecclesiastes 3:1

With the last days of summer starting to grow cool, I am being ushered into a new season with mixed feelings. As much as I love the carefree vibes of summertime (not to mention celebrating my birthday), it is definitely not a season without its flaws. Where I currently live, summer brings not only sun, but terrible humidity, swarms of strange insects, and violent thunderstorms. It can sometimes be difficult to enjoy the outdoors when you know a mosquito is probably looking forward to feasting on you!

Since I live in a region of the United States that experiences the distinct effects of four different seasons, saying hello to autumn is something that I’m actually looking forward to. I love watching the leaves shift from bright greens to vibrant shocks of red, yellow and orange. For a period of time, the landscape is set ablaze with autumnal beauty. And then it happens. The leaves fall from their branches, shrivel up and turn a dull, musty brown as death grips them. That is when everything suddenly turns drab and the bitter cold rolls in.

Before you know it, it is winter—the ugliest time of year in my particular area. The skies are perpetually grey, the cold air rips right through the thickest of clothing, and everyone braces themselves for another brutal season of snow shoveling. It’s not all gloom and doom though. Sure, the streets are eventually clogged with black slush, but when the snow first falls, it is an almost magical experience. Children hurry outside to laugh, run and play as everything gets blanketed in glistening white. In my book, there is nothing in this world more peaceful, heartwarming or picturesque as a white Christmas.

Unfortunately, the pristine snow-covered splendor can’t last forever. Chilly winter days are eventually replaced by markedly warmer spring ones. Gentle blossoms reemerge as baby animals can be seen taking their first look at the land. There is always the optimistic feeling of fresh new beginnings in the air…right alongside constant rain. Too warm to be winter, yet still too cool to be summer, springtime is Mother Nature’s wet and muddy waiting room. I simply cannot win! However, the cycle always continues. Spring turns to summer, summer turns to fall, and fall turns to winter as it has always done before. The alternating seasons bring life, death and everything in between.

 

The Main Message

In Ecclesiastes 3:1, Solomon points out that just like the seasons I’ve described, we are to go through various seasons in our lives. As summer and fall have their pros and cons, there are different times in our lives when things will go well…or not. In our lifetime here on Earth, there is a time and a place for every condition, emotion and expression. As we all know, nothing in life is entirely good or entirely bad. Instead, there is a mix of the two extremes, along with every shade of so-so that lies between the two.

Though I am sure that most people would greatly prefer to remain in an endless state of strife-less bliss, we all know that this is hardly the way the world works. Although the Lord originally created man with never-ending tranquility in mind, the early rebellion and fall of man (think Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden) brought that way of life to a screeching halt. From that point there was the knowledge of good and evil, which introduced duality into the human experience. For every “good” condition, there was a polar opposite condition to accompany it. Now we simply cannot have one without the other.

 

“A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance.” – Ecclesiastes 3:4

 

I believe that Ecclesiastes 3:1-9 gives a very accurate summary of both the human experience and the general way in which our world operates. Whether we observe the goings on in nature or the events that unfold in our own lives, we can easily identify the dichotomy between one state of being or another:

A developing affection between two lovers [VERSUS] A marriage ending in divorce

Babies being born  [VERSUS] The elderly passing away

Finding a new job [VERSUS] Being laid off or fired

Countries enjoying peace time [VERSUS] Nations in the throes of war and destruction

Trees blossoming with flowers [VERSUS] Trees becoming barren 

 

In addition to the concept of polarity, another central theme I have gathered from Ecclesiastes 3:1 is the inevitability of change. Due to there being room for all conditions and experiences to occur, nothing stays exactly the same. Just as some plants bloom and then wilt until the following spring, our emotions and experiences wax and wane in response to the things going on around and within us. As we learn new things, we change our opinions and behaviors. We are also consistently impacted by the actions of others, which keeps our life in a state of continual evolution.

Since there is a proper time for anything to happen—it does. The good and the bad in our lives coexists, for better or for worse. So, the matter at hand isn’t about whether or not various seasons in our lives will come and go, but how we will decide to handle the worst of them when they come our way.

 

My Thoughts

Everyone loves to be in the middle of the fruitful seasons of our lives. At least, I know I do! It feels great to wake up each morning with enough excitement to tackle new challenges. We’re all smiles when we’re getting promotions at work, acing all of our school exams, dating the person of our dreams or looking and feeling our very best. Those are the seasons we all live for.

But what happens when that particular season abruptly ends, leaving you stranded in a state of brokenness and confusion? We all go through rough patches in our life—some short, some long. There are so many different seasons that can cycle into our lives, bringing heartache, frustration and disappointment with them:

 

Seasons of addiction

Seasons of loneliness

Seasons of depression

Seasons of loss

Seasons of financial hardship

Seasons of insecurity

Seasons of illness

Seasons of fear

 

Perhaps you are even in the middle of a dark period of your life as you read this. It is possible that you’ve been dealing with your circumstances for months, years, or even decades! It may feel as though you simply can’t go on or that nothing will ever improve for you. Rest assured that your life is not solely comprised of one perpetual difficult season. Though it may have been hard for a long while, nothing lasts forever.

That’s the good thing about seasons. Just as seasons of depression and illness can come upon your life, seasons of joy and healing can do the same. That is the entire point of Ecclesiastes 3:1: Although bad things can and will eventually happen to us in this life, we can take comfort in knowing that good things should also be expected. Instead of taking this verse as a cue to expect hardship, I think it was intended to actually edify and encourage us to accept the volatile nature of life.

Acknowledging and accepting this fundamental fact is half the battle, and perhaps, the most important thing to do when things go wrong for us. Often, people struggle to recover from setbacks simply due to the shock of a sudden loss or an unfavorable diagnosis. Instead of being able to work towards the next steps of response, they spend valuable time reeling from the surprise of having had something or someone taken from them that they simply weren’t prepared for. The acceptance of change can help us shift our focus away from expecting everything to go well all of the time and better position us for finding helpful solutions to our dilemmas.

 

Practical Application

You may be wondering, “Even if I accept the inevitability of change, that doesn’t help me get through a bad season in life. How can I cope long enough to even hope to see improvements?” As someone who has encountered many difficult seasons in life, my best advice would be to embrace all seasons as learning experiences and opportunities for growth. I know that many people who are facing rough circumstances cannot stand having this suggested to them, and I completely understand that.

When you’re struggling with an issue, you often want to hear something other than “learn from your pain”. In the moment, it doesn’t feel like a solution that can adequately compensate you for what you’ve gone through. You want explanations, answers and restitution—not an educational experience. However, if you consistently make it a point to identify valuable lessons from all seasons of your life, you are more apt to remember how the Lord has previously blessed or protected you. Despite rarely seeing the silver lining while we’re in the thick of a problem, we can usually look back at a past situation and see how the experience made us stronger, smarter or more resilient. This gives us the strength to face potential unknowns in the future.

I also want to point out the fact that experiential knowledge is priceless. You could read every book in the world about depression or divorce, but unless you’ve actually gone through it yourself, your ability to fully understand the experience would be severely hindered. That being said, not everything we learn in life is meant for us. When we go through hardships, it makes us excellent ministers and teachers. There are people out there in the world who could greatly benefit from your personal knowledge and insight, no matter what difficulties you’ve been through.

Sharing your most painful experiences with others can really help encourage them while they are going through similar things, or even help prevent them from having to go through the situations you did. It truly returns whatever power and/or esteem was stolen from you because you are then ensuring that the pain and struggle wasn’t all in vain. If you knew that having gone through an abusive relationship would give you the insight needed to protect others from a similar fate, would you still view your past hurts the same way? Probably not, and that’s a terrific thing to ponder.

Difficult seasons are also an ideal opportunity to go deeper in your relationship with God. These are usually times when we feel lonely, lost, helpless and/or devoid of all hope. We may feel as though we are drowning in our troubles and need someone to drag us to safety. What better savior could we have than God? Although he is always with us and always seeking a relationship with us, I believe He especially wants us to run to Him during our darkest hours.

If we seek Him, He shall always help to restore us. He’d never resist an opportunity to make a happy person happier, but his glory is better demonstrated when he brings us from a place of sorrow to a place of joy. This not only helps us learn how to trust in and rely on Him, but it gives others a chance to witness how He has moved in our lives.

 

“Let us not grow weary or become discouraged in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap, if we do not give in.” – Galatians 6:9

 

Something else to remember during our difficult seasons is that we will always reap according to what we sow. Despite rough times in our life being stressful and hard to cope with, it never gives us the license to mistreat other people by taking our frustrations out on them. No matter what season we are in, we should continue to praise God for the good times we have had in the past and thank him for what he will do for us in the future. And he will definitely bless us repeatedly because that is His true nature and desire.

The main key is for us to continue to behave in a way that is pleasing to Him even if our circumstances are displeasing to us. We should continue to be helpful and treat others well, no matter how we are being treated. Even in our weakest moments, if we do not give up and do not forgo doing the right things, we will be significantly better off once we rotate out of our bad season and head into a new one. Nothing that we do or say goes unnoticed by God, no matter how long it takes to see victory in our lives. Just as there is a season for hardship, there is also a season for rejoicing.

 

“The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life and have it in abundance.” – John 10:10

 

As a closing note, I simply want to stress the importance of understanding the origin of bad seasons. Although the world has a place for all things, both good and bad, and God created the world, God does not author the bad circumstances that happen in it. He doesn’t allow bad things to happen to us in order to “teach us a lesson”, to punish us or anything remotely similar. I can definitely get into this particular topic more at a later date (or you can comment to ask me more about it), but for now, just know that God does not want us to live in misery—ever.

Negative things such as illness, divorce, trauma, violence and hatred are not things of God. These types of things are the work of the Enemy—all day, everyday. Whether the Enemy uses us or others to carry out his unsavory purposes, this is the true originator of evil occurrences and seasons. Jesus emphasizes this in John 10:10. Jesus and God share the same exact goodwill towards us, so when unfortunate circumstances rear their head, you can be sure that they want us to be victorious in all seasons of our lives. And with them, we will be.

I hope this message finds you well and ministers to your spirit if you were in need of encouragement or a revelation of this week’s verse. Have a great remainder of your weekend and make sure to own the week ahead!

nellxosignature
Photo Credits: Pexels

 

Advertisements