In Ecclesiastes 3:1, Solomon writes: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven”.
In the seven verses that follow, Solomon goes on to provide a handful of examples that cover the broad spectrum of the human experience; from birth, gain, love, peace and laughter to death, loss, hate, war and mourning. A sampling of both things we spend great amounts of time, energy and resources trying to fill our short lives with, coupled with those we go to equally great lengths trying to avoid altogether. Nonetheless, the wise and inspired writer tells us that each has its rightful place in our lives and that God has made them all beautiful in their time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
In a world where peace, comfort and prosperity are often the goal and even the measure of a satisfying and successful life, this idea that loss, conflict, and mourning are beautiful in their time doesn’t seem to make sense. It is at odds with what we so often want and estimate we deserve.
When man views his existence solely within the confines of his time and experiences on earth, the period bounded by birth and death, the beauty is easily overlooked. In fact, it can be downright impossible to find. Far too often the seasons of loss, conflict and grief drag on much longer and return with far greater frequency than those of gain, peace and laugher. Hardships and misfortunes come upon us at the most inopportune times. The breaking down of things we have spent so many years building up can seem like a cruel joke. And when death is viewed as the end there is hardly a scenario where it is perceived as being beautiful, especially when we feel it visits those we love out of season.
Unfortunately, these thoughts and feelings are an all-too-common reality for many. And, if left unchecked, can leave a great distaste for life in our mouths and an inaccurate concept of God in our minds. Even when we are trying to seek the Lord we are not immune to these tendencies of thought. And a shift of focus to the circumstances of the here and now can make all our efforts to follow Him seem futile.
Paul concedes in I Corinthians 15:19:
“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”
So how can we find beauty in the totality of life’s experiences? What keeps us from becoming weighed and worn down by the things time will inevitably bring us if we’re given enough of it?
If we would have continued in Ecclesiastes 3:11 mentioned a moment ago, we would have begun to see God’s answer to this difficult question. He has put eternity in our hearts. While we are subjected to the elements of time, He has placed within us a concept that is contrary to time itself. And can, therefore, not be directly touched or disrupted by its events.
When the Lord formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (Gen 2:7), He created an element of man that is not bounded by death. While man’s physical body decays and returns to the earth, his spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7).
God has made us in His own image, with a spirit that is eternal. Furthermore, He has sent His Son, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice and atonement for our sins to provide us an opportunity for eternal life rather than the eternal punishment we all deserve. When we recognize and submit to this, obeying the gospel and believing in the name of the Son of God, no matter what chaos may be going on around us, I John 5:13 tells us that we can know that we have eternal life. While the “whys” of life and the work of God from beginning to end might remain a mystery to us, the assurance of eternal life through Christ our Savior does not.
It’s this knowledge, this prospective, that allows us to see the beauty in God’s design of life; even in the things that hurt sometimes. Things indeed beautiful and valuable because they keep us from becoming too comfortable in a place that’s not home; too invested in something as brief and insignificant as a vapor. Things that remind us we are strangers and pilgrims here on earth, and that help us abstain from the fleshly lusts that war against the soul (I Peter 2:11).
When we adopt this perspective, we see life’s struggles for what they truly are: “our light affliction, which is but a moment”. And realize that they are “working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (II Corinthians 4:17).
While we might try, we will not always be able to avoid suffering, pain and disappointment in this life. But if we surrender to our Creator and the plan of salvation He has authored through Jesus Christ, we will inherit the eternal life God wants for us all. And we will, once and for all, find relief from those things we patiently endure.
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”