Read Ecclesiastes 3
Ecclesiastes portrays the “big picture” of life. Koheleth, or “the preacher” as the author is identified, writes, “There are seasons for all things.” Everything under the sun has a time. There is a time for every matter under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to break down and a time to build up. A time to mourn and a time to dance.
This view of life as a series of endless cycles, a view that, “what goes around, comes around,” is appealing for a number of reasons. First, it makes sense. It gives order and meaning to a world that often seems chaotic. Though the world seems a mess, God stands firmly in control of all the times of our lives. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by. God is, was, and will be even as the seasons change, as laughter turns to tears and back again to laughter.
The wisdom of this passage is much needed in our hurried world. We are often encouraged to act quickly, to act now and to run to catch up with a world that is passing us by. We need to hear the quiet confidence of this passage that our God is in control of the time in our lives, that there is time for all things under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to mourn and a time to dance.
Just as Spring turns into Summer and Fall, as the sowing becomes the harvest, there are seasons of our lives that we endure, sometimes joyfully, sometimes with great pain and hardship as we live our lives, as we grow older and face the certainty of death.
It is one thing, however, to appreciate the wisdom of life’s seasons and quite another to know it as we experience the ups and downs of life. When we are really happy or joyful, time can seem to fly by. When we are sad or mournful, time can seem to stand still.
Our faith teaches us that there is a time to mourn, a time to weep. To mourn the loss of a loved one is not to deny the power of the Resurrection. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians makes this clear. As Christians, we “do not grieve as those who have no hope.” We grieve as those who have hope. Our loss is just as great and we can express our loss and experience the pain because we have hope that death is not the final word.
Jesus himself endured the greatest hardship – death on a cross. This is a fact that makes our faith so distinct. In no other religion is God so intimately involved in the lives of the people that God chooses to endure death for our sake. There is no greater love than this. God’s willingness to endure suffering with us frees us to experience all that life and death have to offer…all the seasons … the laughter and the tears….the morning and the dancing…life and death…because nothing separates us from the love of God. This love lifts us out of the hopelessness that divides us and holds us together in faith.
There is a time for mourning and a time for dancing. If we try to hide from one, we’re going to lose the other. When my Grandmother died, I was afraid to go to the funeral because I didn’t want to face my loss. Often times I’ve found it difficult to say good bye and I’ve avoided it when I could. Unfortunately, when we do this, we cut ourselves off from a part of life, we become out-of-sync with life’s seasons. We try to retreat into a shell where all we feel is a kind of numbness that knows neither pain nor joy. Lacking the hope that we might endure pain and live on, we neither mourn nor dance, we hide.
Our Christian hope compels us to experience the seasons of life, to live life abundantly and face our fear of death. We don’t do this alone.
As we dance, Christ dances with us. As we mourn, Christ mourns with us. Christ has enjoyed and endured all things that we may live throughout all the seasons of our lives and face death with the confidence that in Christ we have died, in Christ we will rise again.
In Christ, our time of mourning will be turned into a time for dancing and celebrating the goodness of God who provides us the time of our lives.