“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." Ecclesiastes 3:2-3
The meaning of the above verses is transparent: In this changing world, nothing stays the same. We move from one thing to another: from joy to sorrow, from war to peace and back to war again. We search for a while, then we give up. We are silent, then we speak; then we are silent again. We love and we hate-and we do it over and over again. We are born, we grow up, we give birth; our children grow up, they give birth. We die, our children die, and our grandchildren grow up and give birth.
That’s what life is all about. It is part of God’s plan. Some of these things we do ourselves and some are sent to us by God himself. But they all fit into His plan. No one scatters stones all the time and no one gathers all the time (see verse 5).
Consider how this applies to the marriage relationship. If you stay married long enough, you will see it all. Everything that can happen will happen. Any couple married more than twenty years can testify to this fact. There is indescribable joy and the deepest sorrow. There is hatred and there is love. There is birth and there is death. There is success and there is failure-often back-to-back. All these things have their place and if you stay together long enough, you will see them all.
I remembered this truth when I attended the wake for a dear friend who died of cancer. About fifty people were in the room when I arrived. As I walked to the casket to pay my respects, I passed several good friends who were chatting together. There she was-resting in the casket-and not five feet away the young people were talking about cars and sports and their jobs and smiling to each other. Life and death were eerily juxtaposed against each other.
Were the others being disrespectful? No, they loved my friend as much as I did. But life goes on. Even in the midst of sorrow, those who remain speak of life. Later that evening a young couple came by with a baby barely two weeks old. There it was, plain as day, right in front of my eyes, life and death in the same room. Joy and sorrow. Hope and sadness. Yesterday and tomorrow all mixed together, all happening at once. Someone dies and we weep. Another person is born and we rejoice.
That’s what Solomon was talking about. In this ever-changing world, God alone can give meaning to life; He alone does not change. He directs the jumbled events that seem to have no rhyme or reason. So cling to this truth: God is in charge and does not change, and He makes no mistakes.
My God, You are the Lord of the changing seasons of life. Without You I could hardly face tomorrow; but as long as You are with me I will have no fear. Amen.
Ray Pritchard pastored in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. Married to Marlene for 38 years, he enjoys being a husband, a father and a grandfather, riding his bike, and playing with Dudley and Gary, beloved basset hounds.