1 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.
Someone once said if you want to make God laugh tell Him your plans. The truth is that while we are planning and trying to figure things out, God has already worked things out. There is of course an obvious dichotomy here, there is our plan and then there is God’s plan for our lives.
In the eyes of God our plans tend to be narrow in both scope and focus. We plan in terms of start to finish. We say to ourselves, we will complete high school, go to college, pursue our career, raise a family, retire, and then enjoy our golden years. We rarely take into account the unexpected, things like illness, financial difficulty, life changes, relational issues, career changes, and other such things.
God’s plan on the other hand factors in every eventuality we will face. It is for this reason that God’s plan for us is broader in both scope and focus. God’s plan includes contingencies and in case of emergency strategies for when things appear to be going awry.
The challenge for us is to reconcile our plans with God’s plan. The truth is that God is not going to adjust His plan to suit our wants and wishes, but we must synch up our plan with God’s plan. In order to accomplish this it is imperative that we understand two things:
a) What is God’s plan for us?
b) How does God intend to fulfill His plan for us?
If we focus on the how, God in time will reveal and make clearer the “what” aspect of His plan for us.
When we look to nature it helps us to both see and better understand how God fulfills His plan in our lives. Nature reveals that God uses a seasonal approach to fulfill His plan in our lives. Seasons are specific time periods created by God for specific activities. Just as there are four seasons in nature, there are also four seasons in the life of every person. In nature there is summer, fall/autumn, winter, and spring. In the life of every person there will be summers, fall/autumns, winters, and springs. Each season is distinguishable from the others by the activities that take place. For example, summer is a time of fun and enjoyment. The weather is hot, the trees and flowers are in full bloom, and people tend to spend more time outdoors. Fall/autumn is a time of change. The leaves turn colors as they prepare to fall of the trees, the kids go back to school, and the weather begins to get cooler. Fall/autumn is also a time of harvest. It is a time of reaping what has been planted and storing up for the days ahead. Winter is a time of hibernation. The days are shorter and the nights are longer. The cold and sometimes absolutely freezing temperatures force both people and animals inside in pursuit of warmth. Winter is also a time of both introspection and reflection. It is during winter that we often find ourselves dreaming about the coming summer or reflecting on the summer that just past. Spring is a time of new birth and rebirth. In spring we see nature and people coming back to life with renewed energy as they thaw out from the cold of winter.
As we seek to understand God’s plan for our lives, we must ask ourselves what season is my life in? The answer to this question can be found by looking at what is going on in our lives. If there is a lot of activity going on perhaps we are in summer. If there are changes occurring perhaps we are in fall/autumn. If there is not much happening and things are relatively quiet then we are in winter, and if new and different opportunities are presenting themselves or old opportunities are being revisited we are in spring.
One of the lessons we gain from nature is that seasons and the activities that occur within them are divinely prompted. Nature illustrates to us that God not only provides specific times periods for everything, but God also has assigned specific activities to each time period.
Take for example the bear and the squirrel, both hibernate during the winter and both prepare for their hibernation during the fall/autumn. Ducks, geese and swans migrate south during fall/autumn, as food supplies become limited, to warmer climates and return north during the spring. Farmers plant during growing season, reap or harvest at the end of growing season, enjoy the fruits of their labor, and then wait until the next growing season. At God’s prompting each of these engages in the activities that are appropriate for each season.
As we seek to understand God’s plan, we must ask ourselves what is God prompting me to do? Is God prompting me to plant, reap or harvest what I have planted, enjoy the harvest, or wait until the next planting season? Whatever God is prompting us to do it is keyed to the season we are in right now. The wonderful thing about God is we never have to guess. Just like the bear, squirrel, ducks, geese, swans, and farmer, God uses the environment to trigger an internal alarm. When the alarm goes off within us it is a signal – it’s time to transition because the season is changing and I must change with it.
The prompting of nature’s activities within each season is set according to God’s timetable. In other words, God has set the actions of bears, squirrels, ducks, geese, swans, and farmers, and when they are to engage in their activities. When they respond to God’s prompting they are acting in season. The sweetest and most tasty fruit I have eaten are those that are in season. In fact, Whole Foods, a national retailer of both organic and conventionally grown foods has built its business on the premise of selling only produce that is in season. Produce that is in season has been allowed to ripen and is therefore mature and ready to be consumed. It offers the optimum level of health benefits, taste, and satisfaction. Activities that are done in season or at the time God has appointed will always prove to be beneficial, successful, and personally gratifying.
Conversely, fruit that is picked before its time will be hard, tart, and difficult to digest. Fruit that is also picked after its time will be overripe, the texture will be soft and have a higher concentration of sugar making it also difficult to digest. Activities that are done out of season or other then when God prescribes them to be done will be hard to carryout, encounter increasing levels of difficulty, and require more effort and yield less than the desired results.
Therefore, we must recognize that it is God who sets the timetable and determines what will happen and when it will happen. Have you ever noticed how God allows some things to happen to us or thrusted upon us? This is to wake us up and to sound the alarm that we are in season and it is either our time to plant, reap, enjoy, or wait.
The writer poses the question, what does the worker gain from his toil? This is a question we all ask from time to time – what am I working for, or why am I killing myself?
The writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes points out that the real issue is we simply do not understand. We do not understand:
1)That God did not create us to spend every waking minute of every day of our lives working and being saddled with the accompanying burdens of life
2)That God knows when we are ready and God has set and established specific time periods for specific activities that we are to engage in called seasons
3)That the gift of God to us is that we find satisfaction and enjoyment in whatever season we are in
So, if we are in summer, enjoy the mobility and activity. If we are in fall/autumn, enjoy the transitions that are occurring. If we are in winter, enjoy the rest, peace and quiet, and if we are in spring, enjoy the new possibilities and the revisiting of things we tabled years ago.
God in His infinite wisdom created seasons so that life would not become one-dimensional. To keep us from becoming comfortable, complacent, and settling for anything less then the fullness of God’s blessings God ushers in different seasons that challenge us in different ways. God does this so that we will know that He is God and it is He who controls and determines what happens and when things will happen to and for us. The good news is that as long as we walk with God we will always be in season and no one can alter what God has set in motion for my life, because God is in control of everything that happens in my life.