3 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? 10 I 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. 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.
Now, go back and read these verses from Ecclesiastes again, pausing and thinking about just where you are in this list.
I have been thinking about the seasons of life and how they can change so slowly we hardly notice or so rapidly we can hardly keep up. This list is the toil of man yet the gift of God. The question is just how do I see this list, as a toil or a gift?
Thinking back over my 67 years of life, I can picture many of these times clearly. I see the birth of my children and grandchildren as clearly a gift of God. I see the death of many family members, even at young ages, as them “going home,” and knowing in my grief I will see them one day forever. I have experienced seasons to kill and tear down, weep and mourn, just to have my mournings turn into joy.
That is the benefit of trusting the Lord with your sin and sorrow. Notice, I said “seasons” plural. Over the years I have had many of those seasons with some lasting longer than others. I pray my roots are deeper and my branches spread wider that others may benefit from my experience. We all need one another to draw strength, prayer, and Godly counsel from. That is how the body of Christ should work. I call it “Jesus with skin on.”
How many idols of stone have I made? How many tiny altars have I built to soothe my insufficiency only to find they are insufficient? We must come before the Lord in prayer to tear down the walls of our own making and allow him to gather us to himself. As that happens, we recognize that he remakes us and gives us new stones, with new names, new confidence and identity. It is in that time we search out who he has called us to be and embrace his friendship. We throw away the old names and give up the anchors that hold us back from “becoming.” We allow his threads of love to repair our brokenness. That mending season is a quiet place where we are alone with God absorbing his mercy and grace that glues us back together. That quiet place is important for our development. We learn meekness, humility, and dependency on God knowing he is all-sufficient. He calms our heart and restores our soul. Then we must speak of his goodness! I, personally, cannot stay quiet, for he has done mighty works in my life! His Love overwhelms me, and I must declare the victory over hate and the devil. It is a war, a spiritual war for our soul, our personhood, our families, and the body of Christ. Yet, he has overcome all sin through the cross, death, and resurrection offered to us once and for all. As we accept his provision, there will be peace in our hearts, not only for this life but forever!
So, I ask you, what season are you experiencing? What burden has been laid on you and what will you gain from it? Stop now and offload it upon the only One who can carry it. God has made a way for you to be an overcomer, and he will turn your ashes into beauty. He has set eternity in your heart, and all he has is available for you to draw upon. He is all-sufficient and worthy of our praise. This day may you find satisfaction in your toil for this is the gift of God! Amen.
—Shirley Anne Stringfellow