Suffering and the Goodness of God

Ecclesiastes 3:4-5, Part 2 – There is a time for everything

In Part 2 of my blog series, Suffering and the Goodness of God, I am highlighting Ecclesiastes 3:4-5. Verses 4 through 5 are the midpoint of the first 8 verses in the 3rd chapter of Ecclesiastes that are framed with the title, A Time for Everything. There is a rhythm to these verses as each line contrasts a time of joy and productivity with a time of suffering and setbacks.

Suffering creates a beautiful tapestry of our lives. Without pain and suffering our pictures would have muted tones with little contrast. When my suffering is raw and real-time, visualizing my life’s tapestry is far from comforting. When I get past the suffering season and enter a period of relief and joy, I can then take a good look at where my suffering fits into my life’s picture and gain a heart of wisdom.

A Time for Everything

1  There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

  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 weep and a time to laugh

This past year the floodgates of my heart unbolted, and now my tears are flowing like a broken dam.  My close friends know that I don’t cry easily, but the difficult scenarios life has presented to me this past year have broken me down.  Weeping is necessary in our lives.  We need to get good at grieving rather than stuffing our feelings or medicating our pain.

At the end of September 2017, my husband and I made the decision to separate and put our house in Bend on the market.  This is heart-breaking to me.  On December 15th, when our house in Bend is officially sold, Kevin most likely will move to Portland, and I will live like a vagabond for three weeks with my dog in tow until I can move into my new home in Medford, Oregon on January 6th.  I realize that many people will judge this decision we have made, but it was necessary for me to set boundaries in our marriage and deal with my codependency behaviors with Kevin. 

I am so grateful for all the women who joined me on Monday, November 13th in fasting and prayer for my marriage:  Cheryl Boyd, Carri Jensen, Jeanne Hahne, Shawn Mead, Allison Stevenson, Amy Sanchez, Kathy Rascon, Angela Hines, Kathy Daniels, Lisa Hankins, Jane Springer and Regina O’Brien.

I’m most thankful for God.  Psalm 63:6-8 aptly describes my relationship with Him during this season in my life:

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.  Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.  I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. 

The contrast to weeping in this line is laughter. Synonyms for laughter are happiness, hilarity, amusement and enjoyment.   I wish I had a funny story to share with you of how I have laughed recently with abandoned joy, but unfortunately, I do not.  Sometimes when we are weeping and grieving we can’t imagine ever feeling happy again. But the Bible promises we will experience laughter again in Psalm 30:5.

For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

Double Rainbow in my Bend, Oregon neighborhood on Thanksgiving Day.

a time to mourn and a time to dance

This verse in the Bible makes me think of the song, “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack.   My interpretation of the lyrics is as follows: 

With each painful situation I experience in this life – the kind that knock the wind out of me – I refuse to give up and sit it out, but instead I will get up and join the dance. 

Check out this song on YouTube, and have a tissue in hand while you listen to it.  I believe it is every mother’s prayer for her child.   YouTube – I Hope You Dance

My daughter, Lian, dancing in a field near Bend, Oregon.

Lyrics to the song, I Hope you Dance.

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger

May you never take one single breath for granted – God forbid love ever leave you empty-handed

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean – Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens

Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance – And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance  I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance – Never settle for the path of least resistance

Living might mean taking chances but they’re worth taking – Lovin’ might be a mistake but it’s worth making

Don’t let some hell-bent heart leave you bitter – When you come close to selling out reconsider

Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance – And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance   I hope you dance

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean – Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens

Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance – And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

Dance

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them

Of the 325 verses in the Bible that contain the word stone, I have chosen two passages to represent the scattering and gathering of stones. The first passage describes the times in our lives when we must tear down the altars we have built to our idols.  The second one is when we choose to gather with God’s people to build a beautiful spiritual house.

Scattering Stones: 2 Chronicles 14:2-6

Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He removed the foreign altars and the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and to obey his laws and commands. He removed the high places and incense altars in every town in Judah, and the kingdom was at peace under him. He built up the fortified cities of Judah, since the land was at peace. No one was at war with him during those years, for the Lord gave him rest.

Gathering Stones: 1 Peter 2:5

You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Stones on the Beach in Yachats, Oregon.

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing

The definition of embrace is to take or clasp in the arms and press to the bosom; hug. Embracing is not a side hug or a half-hearted squeeze.  Embracing is demonstrated when a wife is greeted by her soldier husband in an airport lobby, and she needs to come up for air when the hug is over.  Without any words, this embrace speaks loudly, “This is the one I love.”

I like to think I can embrace wisdom in the same way I embrace those I love.  Proverbs 4:7-8 urges us to embrace wisdom.

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you.

When I think of embracing or hugging wisdom, I visualize my mind holding on to God’s promises like a tight hug.  When the lies of the world and Satan try to pry God’s wisdom from my arms, I press God’s word closer to by bosom making it impossible to slip from my grasp. 

I Corinthians 15:57-58, speaks of a promise I embrace with all my heart.  I personalized it by changing it to first person.

But thanks be to God! He gives me the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, Diane, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

The contrast to embracing is to refrain from embracing.  To refrain from something is to abstain from an impulse to say or do something.  I find it interesting that refrain is associated with the word embrace because we embrace the things we love.  My conclusion from this pairing of words is that there are people, places, things and thoughts that we are tempted to embrace, but it is in our best interest to refrain from embracing them.  Think of all the things you have embraced in your life that resulted in regret and guilt. These at the things that are not worth embracing.

In conclusion, which side of each of these lines are you experiencing in this season of your life? 

Are you weeping or laughing?

Mourning or dancing?

Scattering or gathering?

Embracing or refraining from embracing?

Whatever you are going through, know this.  God is good, and we can decide to believe in God’s goodness through our pain.

2 Samuel 2: 26 – 30

26 To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
27 to the pure you show yourself pure,
but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.
28 You save the humble,
but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low.
29 You, Lord, are my lamp;
the Lord turns my darkness into light.
30 With your help I can advance against a troop[
g];
with my God I can scale a wall.

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6 thoughts on “Ecclesiastes 3:4-5, Part 2 – There is a time for everything”

  1. I applaud you for sharing your struggles and pain, Diane. I know it’s difficult. I also know God is good and faithful! His plan for you WILL be revealed and he will reward your faithfulness to Him and His word. I love you dearly!!

  2. You are right – suffering refines our character and makes us stronger and more compassionate towards others. When I became a quadriplegic four years ago, it seemed like my life was over, and yet, I have grown closer to God. More than ever before. I am grateful for what this season in my life is teaching me. Thank you for a thoughtful and inspiring post. I plan to drop by often.

  3. Diane, you never cease to amaze me and call my faith higher. Having the opportunity to know the reasons behind your decisions, your trust in God is inspiring. God will honor those who serve him. Love you much.

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