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.
What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11)
I’ve been wanting to write on the subject of time, for some time now. But I find I never have the time. In the past year, time has become a precious commodity to me. Daily, I weigh what are the most important things that have to get done. It is a delight to me to discover a little pocket of time in the midst of the demands, a few sacred moments, where I can choose something extemporaneous to fit into it. Sometimes it is a person, sometimes it is a prayer. Always it is sunshine in the window for just a minute before I rush out . Other days, those moments race by and I forget to savor them. I grieve those days. I wonder sometimes if I am spending my time wisely.
I didn’t always use to be this way. There were days when I had more time than I knew what to do with. I wasted it and wished it away. I was puerile in my thinking, and I long for those days again, to recreate them. It seems to me that so many of life’s big decisions were based on how we chose to spend our time. What we chose to do was who we became. They are the reflection of our lives and our character. Some of them are good, and some of them are sorrowful.
The preacher in Ecclesiastes helps us look over our times with wisdom and judgement. Sometimes our reflections make us wince, and we weep over what went undone. Did I plant when I needed to? Did I fail to tear down what I should have? Did I forget to dance? But we see that time is full of hope, too. There will be a time to heal, a time to build, a time for peace. What we find, as we read King Solomon’s wisdom, is that there is an order to time. We want our time to be made only of good. We often wish for more time – more days of sunshine in the window. But when would we plant and gather? We do not wish for weeping or tearing or mourning, but they are a part of our times, also. There seems to be a balance that we do not always understand. Perhaps, in all of his wisdom, King Solomon is saying that we need the God who is outside of time – who created time – to show us what are our days all about? Sometimes God, in his grace, does this and then, time stands still.
What we do with our time is of immense (even eternal) importance. It can be overwhelming. But, one thing I know is that, when God steps into time with us, all the pieces seem to fit together perfectly. Psalm 31:15 says that our times are in His hands, that his face shines upon us. As I think of how I will spend my time today, this day of rest, this day of Sabbath, I wonder what will I choose to do or become today? For me, today is simple. I choose to be one who worships, prepares a meal for fellowship, takes more time for others and for God, and cuts flowers for the windowsill. Tomorrow, I will have to make these choices again. And they may be harder. I will discover that I have omitted someone or something important. And I will think I have failed. But I will remember the words of the preacher, “God has made everything beautiful in its time”. It helps me trust in his goodness. He has a plan for well being and blessing in our lives. (Jeremiah 29:11) If I tear tomorrow, then I will learn to mend. If I am too silent, I will learn to speak. If I have too much hate, I will learn to love. Part of our beauty comes from the long experience of our days, filled with all of the times – both good and hurtful, empty and full.
We do not understand all our times. I do not think we are meant to. We cannot fathom all that God is doing from beginning to end. We cannot fathom his love for us in Jesus Christ. But we can choose it. We will look for God in each day, each moment, each choice of how we spend our time. In so doing, we will find sunshine in the midst of rain, joy in the midst of tears, laughter in the midst of sorrow. Who will we be then, when our time is done? We will be God’s beautiful work of art, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which He has prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
O God, our times are in your hand: Look with favor, we pray, on us your servants. Grant that we may grow in wisdom and grace, and strengthen our trust in your goodness all the days of our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.