Ecclesiastes 3:1-111 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: 2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, 6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. 9 What does the worker gain from his toil? 10I have seen the burden God has laid on men. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
I love to look at life as a cycle of seasons. When this is my lens I cope with the ups and downs and ins and outs with a stride that equips me for a methodical marathon instead of isolated spastic sprints. I see things less statically and more dynamically.
The author has just come out of a pretty raw commentary on the meaningless of life and is starting to change his tone and tune. It's interesting that when someone is approaching life with better perspective we call that a "seasoned approach". We witness Solomon talking in terms of seasons indicating that his sanity has returned and a bit of wisdom with it. Instead of seeing life one-dimensionally, he begins to step back and widen his gaze a bit.
When you see activities set within seasons set within time, you stand the best chance of interpreting the events of your life with the most accuracy. You won't find yourself laughing at funerals and mourning at weddings. You realize each emotion has its time and place, and depending on the season, each is appropriate. It's not either/or, it's both/and. Everything depends upon seasons and settings.
A time to be born and a time to die - Dealing with the tension of the womb and the tomb
A time to plant and a time to uproot - Dealing with the tension of seeds and weeds.
A time to kill and a time to heal - Dealing with the tension of ending life and preserving life.
A time to tear down and a time to build up - Dealing with the tension of deconstruction and reconstruction.
A time to weep and a time to laugh - Dealing with the tension of agony and ecstasy.
A time to mourn and a time to dance - Dealing with the tension of failure and success.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them - Dealing with the tension of scattering and gathering.
A time to embrace and a time to refrain - Dealing with the tension of freedom and restriction.
A time to search and a time to give up - Dealing with the tension of movement and contentment.
A time to keep and a time to throw away - Dealing with the tension of holding on and letting go.
A time to tear and a time to mend - Dealing with the tension of confronting and comforting.
A time to be silent and a time to speak - Dealing with the tension of contemplation and communication.
A time to love and a time to hate - Dealing with the tension of affection and anger.
A time for war and a time for peace - Dealing with the tension of fighting and forgiving.
He then splices two words together that seem to be opposites, but they are not: Burden and Beauty. He says that God has laid a huge burden on man...something that is actually very beautiful. And it is this: We, as finite creatures, have the infinite beating inside our breasts. We are special. We have the image of God stamped upon our hearts, eternity has been set inside of us. This is a burden; this is a beauty.
It reminds me of the verse where Paul said, "To whom much is given, much is required." When you receive such a gift as this, is is a blessing and a burden. This is what it means to be human. We have the ability to think abstractly about life, which is to say we aren't robots programmed to think one-dimensionally. We can hold two truths that seem to oppose each other in both hands and apply one today and the other tomorrow depending on the setting and circumstances. We can discern the season and interpret the activity in light of the context. It is a burden to wake up each day and know the weight of our lives, but it is beautiful to have our hearts wired with the wonderful capacity to choose our responses to reality. This a sublime gift from God. I submit that it is our distinguishing feature as humans.
And even though we can't fathom the beginning from the end, we can fathom the eternal equilibrium of life and all that hangs in the balance. And we can exercise our God-given consciences to see life in color instead of black and white. This has been laid upon man and it is burdensome. But this has also been laid within man and it is beautiful.
Wow, eternity set within our hearts...seems meaningful to me.