Back in the 1960s, Pete Seeger “wrote” a new folk song, later recorded by a group called The Byrds. All but the title and the last six words of the song were taken directly (though the word order was changed) from the book of Ecclesiastes. Essentially, Pete Seeger wrote seven words and some music; the rest was written by King Solomon almost three thousand years ago! Learn more about the song here…
When God created the world, he instituted times and seasons– day and night; winter and summer; weeks and months. We are bound by time while we live here. Sunlight and darkness help determine when we are active or sleeping (less so since the advent of electric lighting); summer and winter (or rainy/dry seasons) determine when we plant or harvest, what we wear, how we travel, and what activities we plan.
But Solomon reminds us that there are also “seasons” that don’t depend on the weather or the amount of light filling the horizon. There is a time to be born and a time to die; a time for laughter and a time for weeping; a time for war and a time for peace. Our world is not static– it is filled with changes, and times for turning away from one thing and facing another.
3 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (ESV)
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what 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 seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 a time to tear, 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 for war, and a time for peace.
Our prayers will change with these seasons– prayers of wonder and prayers of wondering why; prayers of great boldness and reluctant, halting prayers; prayers that come from joy, and those that come with wracking grief. There will be seasons of chaotic busyness, and seasons of loneliness and long hours; seasons when we help lift the burdens of others before our own, and seasons where others help us lift burdens we cannot bear alone. There will be seasons of fierce, pounding spiritual warfare, and seasons of relative peace and rest.
Solomon lays out the concept, but I like Pete Seeger’s addition of the phrase, “turn, turn, turn.” It reminds me that the seasons of my life will change, but I need to change as well. I need to turn, first of all, to see where God is working in my life and the lives of others– that’s where I need to be and where I need to be focused. God will never leave me nor forsake me, but He loves me too much to “leave” me in a rut– He needs me to move on and finish the race He has set out for me. Change can be difficult, but without it, there is no growth!
Second, I need to turn from habits and activities that are “out of season”–young parents will have a completely different way of mapping out their time, including time for prayer and Bible study, than empty-nesters. People in mourning will have a different approach to prayer and worship than those who are in a season of celebration. There is a season to break down–to end bad relationships and turn from bad habits–and a time to build up healthy relationships and habits. There is a time to speak– to share prayer requests and spend time in corporate prayer; to ask questions and persist in our requests. But there is also a time to stay silent– to meditate and listen more than we talk; to be still and know, instead of pace and ponder. I don’t wear a heavy coat in the middle of summer or run barefoot in the snow– I need to turn in alignment with the season I am passing through.
Finally, I need to turn away from temptation and sin. God gives me the power, through His Spirit, to turn and walk away from the quicksand of complaisance, the tidal waves of desire, the live wire of unchecked rage, or the bottomless pit of envy, but I must turn away from them.
This life is full of seasons and change– some good, some dangerous. But God is outside of time and seasons. He provides endless variety, but He never changes His essential nature. No matter where we turn, He can be found!