by Lois Flowers
When it comes to places to live, Kansas is not very glamorous.
Nobody has ever said, “Wow, I bet it’s beautiful there,” or “I’ve always wanted to live there,” when they find out where my home is.
I get it. I’ve been around the country, and Kansas is a bit boring compared with the rest of the states. One thing I do love about living here, though, is the fact that we have four distinct seasons.
Some years, winter ends earlier than others. And it’s possible—probable, even—that we’ll have spring-like weather in January and that summery temperatures will extend well into the fall. Typically, though, the seasons run like clockwork around here—one right after another after another.
But have you ever noticed that the seasons of life don’t necessarily work like this? As I’ve thought about my own life, in particular, the familiar passage from Ecclesiastes 3 has come to mind a lot lately.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
These 14 “time-for” couplets represent the various seasons we may go through in our lives. Until recently, though, I had always looked at them as separate from each other. I don’t think I ever articulated it, even mentally, but somehow, I had the idea that we experience these “times” one at a time.
I see now, though, that nothing could be further from the truth. Looking at this list while considering events from the past year of my life highlights this point rather emphatically, I think.
For example, both of my parents died last year. Losing them has resulted in many tears, but also much laughter as we fondly remember times spent with them over the years. It also has required my family to go through all their belongings and decide what to keep and what to throw away, a process that continues even now as I go through what remains of my dad’s vast collection of paperwork.
On a less emotional but more physically taxing note, Randy dug the root ball of a huge old lilac bush out of the ground last summer and we replaced it with a row of junipers along the back fence. Then in November, we embarked on a renovation project that included jack hammering a large section of tile flooring and redoing all the surfaces in our kitchen.
Finally, a recent phase of our teenage daughters’ lives seemed to be one when they needed a lot of hugs from their dad and not nearly much embracing from their mom. And as our newly minted college freshman adjusts to life at a school four hours away, she’s doing a lot of verbal processing (when it’s convenient for her to call, of course), while her parents are praying for wisdom about when to speak and when to be silent.
Do you see them there, the references to tearing down and building, planting and uprooting, weeping and laughing, and so forth?
Perhaps my recollections prompted you to scan your own life for similar correlations to Ecclesiastes 3. I suspect you have at least a few, maybe even more than me.
And we haven’t even touched on events further out from our homes—examples of war and peace, love and hate, or speaking out and being silent that we hear about on the news and see in our communities every day.
The thing is, this is life. Seasons do come and go, for sure. “This too shall pass” can be a helpful bit of encouragement. But as a former pastor of mine used to say, we’re either in the middle of a trial, coming out of a trial or about to begin a trial.
Or more than one, as the case may be.
When we are in the middle of several exhausting or overwhelming seasons at once, it’s easy to feel torn, scattered and all over the place emotionally. And that doesn’t even factor in the tension we may feel spiritually—to somehow discover what God might be trying to teach us, to discern if some kind of sin is involved, to figure out what we are supposed to take away from the situation so we can grow and move on.
I’m not discounting the need to do any of this. But this kind of introspection often puts too much pressure on us, I think—when we start thinking that we are solely responsible for everything that happens to us.
That’s simply not true, at least not if God is sovereign. The Bible reminds us that the rain falls on the just and the unjust. Other people make choices that affect us in painful ways. God’s timing and purposes for other people’s lives also can make life difficult for us.
We still have to push through hard things, of course. We have to persevere in figuring problems out for our loved ones. But we also have to rely on God’s mercy. To trust that He knows what is going on and why. To accept the fact that things may not turn out the way we want or hope or believe is right.
When we’re in the middle of multiple seasons at once, it’s easy to be whipped about like a fall leaf in a Kansas wind—all over the map and never settling any one place for more than a millisecond.
I’m not saying we should to try to “be in the moment” 24 hours a day, as if that were even possible. But I also don’t think we should put all our eggs in the basket of “when this is all over.”
When a hard season comes, it doesn’t automatically eliminate all the good in our lives, after all. There are still reasons to be joyful, gifts to be thankful for, people to love with all our hearts, minds and souls.
The writer of Ecclesiastes concludes his talk of seasons by telling us that God “has made everything beautiful in its time.” Even during the less-than-happy times, His blessings are abundant and all around us, if we just make an effort to look.
Lois Flowers is mom to two lovely daughters and wife to one good man. She’s an author, former journalist and lifelong Midwesterner who values authenticity, loves gardening and is trying to break her habit of always reading the end of the book first. You can connect with her on Twitter (@loisflowers16) or Instagram (loisflowers). She also blogs regularly at loisflowers.com.