As I was thinking about the times and season that we are living in, I remembered the words written in the 10th century BC by the Preacher in Ecclesiastes: “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest (uproot).” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)
For everything there is a season. We know this. Possibly you have a garden like us. If so, you understand how there is a time to plant and a time to harvest, and that at harvest time the plant’s life cycle typically ends meaning that it will be pulled out, uprooted.
In our garden, with the final harvest of peas we picked them by uprooting the plants. There are also some plants that are harvested by literally uprooting them, like carrots, onions and beets. The farmer plants the fields anticipating the day for it to be cut down and harvested. For everything there is a season, a time to plant and a time to harvest.
In Ecclesiastes we find two types of poetic parallelism. First there is the antithetic parallelism which presents opposites — the time to plant and harvest, to be born and die. But there is also the synonymous parallelism seen in the totality of the verse where birth and planting are opposed to dying and harvesting. We understand the Preacher’s time sequence in offering a beginning and an end.
However, knowing and understanding the seasons does not mean that it is always easy to walk through them. For the farmer, the time between these two points is filled with work. This is true for us in life as well. In the past month I have seen both births and deaths in our church family. These events came as no surprise, they were expected, but expecting them does not mean that they will pass without emotion. As the Preacher says, “A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.” (Ecc. 3:4)
As I consider the season that lays ahead of us with the starting of the new school year, I wonder what you are feeling. With each school year we anticipate that there will be a time to start school and a time to finish. But while these were once clearly defined, now there is uncertainty. As schools begin to reopen this month, uncertainty is a good word to describe this season. As those who graduated this past spring were unable to finish with a traditional commencement, we cannot be certain of what 2021 will hold for its graduates.
It is the uncertainty that often wears us down. We function best when the seasons are clearly defined. I know my tomatoes are ripe, and pick them, when they turn red. Who doesn’t desire such absolute knowledge about when we can declare this COVID-19 season finished and ready to be uprooted?
How can we navigate through the uncertainty between these two points? The Preacher reveals that while God’s timing is not always ours, we can trust that his grace is always sufficient to see us through. What does that mean? It means that the God of grace is mindful of the seasons that we are walking through.
While many look for hope in finding answers, God calls us to find our hope in Him — hope that is found in knowing the truth of Paul’s words of Romans 8: “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow — not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” (35, 37-38) Whatever the season, we can rest knowing the Lord is with us.
In what season do you find yourself in today? Does it seem that there are fewer times to “laugh and dance”? Thankfully we can still rejoice even in the midst of trials! How? By not trusting in the seasons but in the one who watches over us during these seasons. I pray that as you look to the future you will put your trust in the Lord who promises to always be with you.
Eldon Peterson is pastor of the Cache Valley Bible Fellowship. His column appears on the Faith page. He can be reached at email@example.com.