This week we welcome Sara from our Marketing Team. Sara shares a beautiful message from Ecclesiastes and how God used those scriptures in her life. Thank you, Sara, for your words and the truth of your message!
No one typically wakes up in the morning with the thought of, “I can’t wait to be disappointed today.” Yet for anyone who’s walked this earth very long, there are days that no matter how hard we try to achieve good things in life, our efforts are met with hurt, rejection and disappointment. Even those of us who know Jesus as our truest form of joy and satisfaction will go through periods of setbacks and letdowns in this life.
According to Ecclesiastes 3: “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.”
I’ll admit, when I read through this passage, I often dismiss the negative parts of each verse and secretly wish I could get away with only the good times. It’s our human nature (and partly our culture’s influence) to want the easy road, the high life, the laughing and dancing ALL THE TIME. But God never promises that. He tells us that we will go through sickness, grief, giving up, death, war, and hate. So, why are we as humans, specifically Christians, often surprised when hard times come our way?
As I was contemplating this scripture, I recalled the animated Disney Pixar movie Inside Out that was released in 2015. If you haven’t seen it, the movie follows the life of an 11-year-old girl named Riley and her five emotions—Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust—working in her mind’s headquarters to guide her through life’s ups and downs. Joy is the natural leader/boss of the operation with the goal to always keep Riley happy. However Sadness struggles with her assigned tasks, frustrating Joy’s plans for Riley’s perfect, blissful life. The plot takes a turn when Riley’s core memories are mistakenly sent down the dump tube, and Joy and Sadness are left frantically trying to restore them, each with conflicting ideas on how to do so. Through their struggle, Joy learns that Sadness’s role on the team is just as vital as her own, and in the end, it is Sadness, the unlikely hero, who restores Riley’s core memories.
Just like the movie depicted each emotion’s importance in helping us process and work through different situations, I realized that each of the “times” listed in Ecclesiastes 3 are essential to the plan God has for our lives. Each season holds opportunities for God to reveal Himself to us in new ways and for our character to be refined to look more like Christ’s. So why is it still so hard to embrace these difficult seasons?
If we see trials as God raining on our parade, there is a good chance we are setting our expectations in life on false hopes and ideologies that we have planted in our own hearts apart from what God has promised us and WHO God is. It won’t feel good to go through times of grief and loss, or to let go of an unhealthy relationship, or to tear down strongholds of sin in our life. But if we know God is good and trust Him at his Word, we must understand that even in the valley, He is making true on His promise to work everything together for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).
It’s natural for us to pray that Joy will swoop in and save the day, but sometimes we need to stop and acknowledge the Sadness (or Disgust, Anger, and Fear) of the situation we’re facing. Look at the book of Psalms, and you will notice the majority are verses of lamentation. Even the Psalmist, in worship, would cry out to God through his pain and sadness. If we zone out or just wish away the hard seasons, we might miss out on what God is trying to teach us there. It is in the valleys that our character and hope are built so we can better enjoy the mountaintop experience when we get there.
We also must understand that God’s timing is not our own. No matter how hard we try, we cannot change the confines of time; however, we don’t have to be controlled by it. It’s okay to make plans as we seek God’s will. It’s good to work towards dreams and goals we have for our lives. Some days we might even reach them. But some days our plans will be interrupted by the weeping, waiting, or giving up seasons. We can’t predict which days, months, or years will be which, but we can know there is a constant even in the midst of these varying times. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).” He isn’t affected by time because He is the one who set it in motion.
So where does that leave us? With hope. In the verses following the “times” stanza in Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon boldly asks God what all of us are thinking, “What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.” (vs. 9-10). Basically, he’s saying, “God if we have to endure all this hardship, what is the purpose of living?” But the answer lies in verse 11: “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” This is the hope that keeps us going. It isn’t wishful thinking; it is a promise from God, and we can trust He will fulfill it in His time.
If you’re striving to find happiness and fulfillment in what you can create, achieve, or set in motion on your own terms, you will be disappointed. Life is hard. There will be days that do not turn out like we hoped, dreamed, or even prayed for. But the fact that God can take any situation—whether good or bad—and redeem it for His glory and our good is what gives us confidence and hope. Embrace the season you find yourself in today, no matter how much it hurts or how uncomfortable it is. God will meet you there, because He is working a beautiful masterpiece through your life’s journey.