Navigating Life – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, KJV)

These are the lyrics of the song “Turn Turn Turn” made famous by the Byrds’. As I mentioned in my introduction to this study, I loved hearing this song performed by a church praise team several years ago. I later learned that the lyrics of the song are identical to the King James translation of this scripture, with the exception of the title phrase and the last line, referring to peace, “I swear it’s not too late”. It’s incredibly cool that a mainstream rock band chose to sing a song straight from the Bible! Even today, I love how contestants on American Idol and other pop-culture musicians have embraced contemporary Christian music. This genre may not be mainstream, but it’s wonderful to see so many younger musicians with a heart for God’s Word.

When I read these eight verses, I see a picture of life. There are fourteen pairs of actions that are polar opposites of each other. The order was discussed briefly in the commentary, but I don’t feel arrangement is the major takeaway, other than the first pair being about life and death; the ultimate extremes of the mortal life. The remaining pairs describe events that may occur in each of our lives on earth. Is the focus of this passage really meant to be on world peace, as the song suggests? I’m not so sure – if anything, I would take it to mean eternal peace, as there will not be peace on earth during our lifetimes.

I was thinking about these verses, in the context of my life, and I couldn’t help but tie it to interpersonal relationships. As I mentioned, to me, these verses paint a picture of our mortal lives. During our time on earth, experiences will take us from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. There will be times when we are enjoying every aspect of life and everything seems to be clicking. Our lives are fruitful; we are full of joy and hope, knowing nothing is impossible with God. However, there will also be times in life when we are questioning God’s plan, as we struggle through periods of darkness and hopelessness. It doesn’t matter who we are or how much control we think we have over our lives, every one of us will experience each of these extremes at some point in our life.

Luckily, the timing of the highs and lows will likely not be the same for everyone. This brings up the importance of authentic relationships! We were not created to live in isolation; we were designed to interact with other people – and these relationships are necessary to help us through the rough patches in our lives. The truth is, we need other people and other people need us! And, this needing is more than a “Hey, how are you?” “I’m fine.” We need to be emotionally invested in the lives of others, and allow others to know who we truly are, without our masks.

It’s pretty safe to say that we are pre-wired to be this way. As a culture, we love to gossip and we seem obsessed with reality television. We are clearly interested in the lives of others, but we sometimes like to do so from an arms-length to (I believe) keep our feelings in check. We enjoy the good parts without allowing ourselves to experience the pain. We can use other people’s experiences to feel better about ourselves without having to show our own ugly parts. However, I believe we were called for more.

The truth is, reality television would be unnecessary if we fully immersed ourselves in the reality of people within our circle of influence. We can help our friends through their difficulties and share their joy in the good times. They can do the same for us. The benefit is that no one needs to feel they are in this alone. Having close relationships is definitely a win-win situation for everyone.

God is showing me so many things through the lives of others. Most importantly, he’s teaching me how to love unconditionally. I certainly don’t like to see anyone go through a painful time, so seeing people near their rock-bottom completely breaks my heart. But, it also makes me want to do whatever I can to encourage, help, and share their pain. I also have the amazing privilege of sharing in their victories as God helps them overcome the darkness they are experiencing.

One of my friends has impressed me with her faith and perseverance through a horrible situation. I can clearly see the hand of God in her life, maybe better than she can at this point, and how He’s helping her grow and gain wisdom. It’s a truly amazing thing and such a blessing, hopefully in both of our lives!

I love how God brings people together at the exact moment they need each other. I treasure my friends who are always there for me when I am weak, and I pray that God will continue use me to help others when they are struggling. We really aren’t in this alone; we do need each other! Together, with God’s help, we can persevere and grow, with joy, throughout all of the seasons of our life!

When asked by a scribe what the most important commandment was, Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:29-31).”

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