Our nation is politically charged in the midst of an election season, ramped terrorism, and internal conflict. Some are crying, “War!” Others cry out, “Peace!” I hear Christians crying both.
I must think long and hard about these words from God, that there is a time of war, and a time of peace (Ecclesiastes 3:3). What does this mean? Let’s not try to be poetic and make excuses out of our own discomfort; these are God’s words. Several times in Scripture God declared war against the enemies of God, instructing His people to take up arms. Yet we know that in this New Testament era, we have to think carefully before we cry for war because we join God in longing for every tribe, tongue, and nation to recognize that Jesus is Lord and be saved. War? We abhor the thought. And Jesus calls us to turn the other cheek. So which is it, a time of war or a time of peace?
The answer to the question belongs to God. When our hearts burn in anger, that’s definitely the time to sit down and be quiet; too many people talking in the public arena are speaking out of anger, and they’re fueling the crowd to want to start a war out of hatred and vengeance. And likewise, when our hearts are feeling weak, frightened, and tempted to make cowardly compromises, that is not the time to go to the negotiating table to discuss a truce.
God declares each season, and when He calls us to our season we must carry it out in righteousness. Christian brothers and sisters, let us have no hatred that leads to a war-mongering heart, yet let our desire for restoration and healing be rooted not in fear but in righteousness alone.
Yes, you should hate. You who love the Lord, hate evil (Psalm 97:10)! But there’s way too much hate in this world, especially toward human beings made in the image of God. I’m grateful to pass along these words of a great leader concerning love and hate.
“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. (from “Loving Your Enemies”)
(There is) a time to keep silence, and a time to speak (Ecclesiastes 3:7).
That tongue is impossible to control (James 3:8)! How is God guiding you to learn when to speak and when to be silent?
- Discretion. It’s knowing which words suit the situation, and how to honor the trust granted you by others who share private information that shouldn’t be repeated.
- Self control. When the sentence begins, “I’m sorry, but…”, or “I know I shouldn’t say this, but…”, or “Bless her heart…”, chances are we’re hinting we’re about to say something that shouldn’t be said. Why do we say these things? Because we’re angry, we’re gossipy, we’re prideful, or some other sin has grabbed hold of the reigns of our hearts and consequently our tongues.
- Courage and Truth. God’s people speak up for those who have no voice. We stand firm on our faith and we speak the words of Christ. We share the gospel. We affirm what God has said in His Word. But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).
(There is) a time to tear, and a time to sew (Ecclesiastes 3:7).
Anyone who has spent time with women in a third world country can understand this analogy from a unique point of view. Women who live in extreme poverty are working with little to no money for daily bread, much less for extra clothing. The wife and mother takes care of her family’s garments, knowing that her daughter’s one of two skirts or her son’s only pair of sandals could not be easily replaced. So when this mother’s dress gets a hole in it, she has to think carefully about what to do. She won’t throw it away. She’ll either take it apart and make something else out of it, or sew it back together.
Create something new, or maintain. How exciting, the twists and turns of the seasons of life!
I get in trouble with my husband all the time because I love to throw things away. The practice makes my endorphins throw a party. It’s getting rid of clutter, getting yucky stuff out of sight, that thrills me.
Sometimes I emotionally want to throw things away to get rid of the brain clutter and get those yucky feelings out of sight. There are things I don’t want to remember because they’re painful. But before I toss out the entire experience or failed relationship, I should ask God first if there’s anything in that wad of memories that I’m supposed to keep. That sends me picking through the emotional garbage, searching for anything and everything that God points out to me and says, “That has worth; keep it.”
(There is) a time to keep, and a time to throw away (Ecclesiastes 3:6).
Confession: I HATE losing. It doesn’t matter if it’s me who played and lost, or my children, or my college team, because I’m going to feel a surge of rage rise up in me. Farkle, football, or Trivial Pursuit. I realize that’s ridiculous, especially when it’s a college ballgame and I’m not even on the field, but when my team loses, it bugs me that someone came out better than me. You know what that is? It’s selfish. And if I don’t reign in my temper and keep my mouth shut, it’s also ugly.
In verse 6, God reminds us that we’ll have seasons of gain and seasons of loss. Sometimes we gain ground, sometimes we lose ground. Sometimes we thrive, sometimes we struggle. Sometimes we come out on top, while sometimes we’re going to come up short. That means that God allows us to lose. Wow. And sometimes it’s not a loss on a playing field, but in our kids’ school, or in the pew, or in the political arena. God does everything with purpose. The next time you lose, go to God and ask Him to let you learn the full lesson and glean the entire purpose of the loss He has allowed in your life.
When my children were young, they each had a lovey which was a small blanket with satin trim and a stuffed animal head attached. Julia’s was a lamb, Jay’s a bear, and John Mark’s a froggie. They adored their loveys and would not sleep without them. Just holding the lovey and rubbing the satin gave them comfort. They’ve all outgrown the constant need for their loveys, and I can’t really tell you when it happened. But gradually they all found interests that required them to put down the lovey in order to pick up something else.
In life, there is a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing (Ecclesiastes 3:5). There’s a time to hold something (or someone) close to you, and then we must let go of that firm grasp when it’s time, freeing up our hands to lay hold of something new that God is bringing into season.
(There is) a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones (Ecclesiastes 3:5).
This pairing has many Bible scholars baffled and fascinated at the same time. Some possible meanings include:
– A time to have children, and a time to cease having children.
– A time to prepare a field (removing stones), and a time to ruin a field (by adding stones to make it unfit for farming, as in an act of war against an enemy).
– A time to approach something as a problem to be removed (as in stones needing to be removed from a field), and a time to approach something as a resource to be used for good (as in gathering stones to build a wall.)
Let’s entertain option three. It’s really the whole “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” principle. God allows struggles to enter our lives. These “stones” can be obstacles, or they can be repurposed for good. Pray before you act; is it time to remove the problem, or does God want you to take a bad situation and creatively bring about a constructive solution?
Humans can make a rule for anything. We want to make sure we get it right, so we create rules to monitor our every behavior. In the Victorian Era, mourning was dictated by rules of social decorum. Mourners were to remain in full black garb, including jewelry, then they could promote to grey, mauve, then white. The relationship dictated the period: widows, 2 years; loss of a parent/child, 1 year; down to first cousins, 4 weeks.
These silly guidelines for mourning say nothing to the heart. How do we know how long to grieve? Whether we’ve lost a loved one to death, a sweetheart to misunderstanding, or a friend who had to move away, the pain is intense and comes and goes as it pleases without consideration of the mourner. When the pain is fresh, it’s time to mourn. But as time moves on, we begin to realize that the world is still in motion and there’s life to be lived, and we find ourselves in an internal struggle – is it time to let go? Will there be harm done if we don’t cling to the loss?
Ending our mourning is not saying goodbye to the person or to their memory; it’s simply saying goodbye to the pain. If you’re currently grieving, let God reveal His nearness and rest in Him. Look forward to the end of the mourning, and get ready to dance in honor of the One who dries every tear.
(There is) a time to mourn, and a time to dance. (Ecclesiastes 3:4)
My husband’s grandmother taught preschoolers for years, so I especially appreciate this magnet on her refrigerator: “No Whining.” God says there’s a time to weep, and a time to laugh (Ecclesiastes 3:4), and wouldn’t the world be a more pleasant place if we could discern the difference?
After God rescued the Israelites from slavery — from slavery — they began to whine about food. Oh, they had food, and they didn’t have to work for that food, but it just wasn’t the food they preferred. Moses told God, “They weep all over me, saying, ‘Give us meat'” (Numbers 11:13). They’re whining caused God to become angry and Moses to become stressed out (v.10).
What’s your latest bellyache? Is it worthy of weeping, or would a good belly laugh help you focus on the goodness that God is pouring into your life?