A Time for Every Purpose

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ESV)

If you’re a fan of The Byrds then this set of verses is pretty familiar to you… In fact, quite often people are surprised to find that this was in the Bible a few thousand years before the song became popular in the 1960s, and to be honest it was a Vietnam-era call for peace… So there are certain feelings attached.

For me, this set of verses has become used primarily in funeral settings. It’s a reminder that God’s providence covers all circumstances regardless of our understanding or lack thereof. But because I have associated it with funerals and memorial services I have attached a certain melancholy to it.

Yet, when I really read it I am struck by how the writer highlights what we already know: life changes. There are highs and lows, ebbs and flows, good and bad, and regardless of all our attempts against it life is a series of new adventures and challenges. Jobs change, children are born and grow up, loved ones pass away. There are graduations and promotions – times to celebrate the changes and times to mourn them.

As believers of a sovereign God, there is a a fundamental truth that guides us through the shifts of life: God does not change. His character, his eternality, his goodness, his truth, his justice, his love – those endure forever.

Even when we are faithless, and fearful God does not change. This is explicit in places like Malachi. The prophet is setting a warning to the people of Israel, who had endured change after change – and yet, instead of clinging to God they ran and followed their own devices. God sent the people into exile as a discipline for their failings, but in Malachi 3:6 he says something profound:

“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. (Malachi 3:6 ESV)

Even the people’s failures could not change God’s covenant love, and so once again they were called to repentance.

We fear change, because we fear the unknown. In these moments there is a temptation to trust ourselves and what is familiar to see us through the perceived darkness. However, the only true stability is the one we find in the belief that God is so powerful nothing moves him from the grace he longs to show us in Christ Jesus.

My family and I are facing a change… a pretty big one. It is a right hand turn in how we have lived our lives for more than a decade, and I would be lying if I said there wasn’t some anxiety associated with it. Yet I know change is an opportunity to either diminish our faith or to see it grow.

Precious Lord, you who do not change… You whose love does not diminish… You whose truth does not fail. Give us a sense of your assurance today as we face the changes in our lives. Fill us with your Spirit that by your strength we can hold firm to our faith in you even as our faith in ourselves and the familiar areas of our lives falters. You are good and your love endures forever. This we pray in the name of Jesus, who is the same today, yesterday and forever. AMEN.

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