Suffering and the Goodness of God

Ecclesiastes 3:6-8, Part 3 – There is a time for everything

In Part 3 of my blog series, Suffering and the Goodness of God, I am highlighting Ecclesiastes 3 verses 6 to 8 which are a part of the 8 verses titled, “A Time for Everything.”  These 8 verses contain contrasting activities.  Solomon, who penned these lines, is teaching us that life is a balance of good and bad, joyful and sad, miraculous and tragic.  When we accept that suffering is weaved into the fabric of our lives and is unavoidable, we can then open our hearts to what God is trying to teach us through our pain.  

A Time for Everything

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

  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.

Before we dive into these verses I have a few things to say about what is going on in my life right now.  When I created this blog in June 2017, I made a commitment to myself to post a new article every other week.  I also decided to be vulnerable and authentic with my readers.  However, when I made this vow seven months ago, I had no idea how much my life was going to change by December of this year, so now I’m presented with the dilemma of just how open I want to be in this blog. 

Well, I’m not one to isolate and hide, so here is my honest statement:  My husband and I filed for divorce in the Oregon court system and it will be final most likely by my next blog post, and waves of grief are washing over me.

As a Christian woman who has made a vow to be married until death do we part, this is extremely sad to me, but my husband has ceased being my husband many months ago, so the divorce is just making our separation legal. I can’t fix a broken relationship by myself.  What I will not do in this blog post or any future blog posts is say anything derogatory about Kevin.  I will always appreciate the 24 years we had together.  Prayers are appreciated for us at this time.  

On December 15th, the sale of our house will be final, and that is when Kevin and I will be parting ways.  January 2nd is when I move into my new home in Medford, Oregon.  Before I move to Medford, I will stay in Eugene and then Corvallis during the last two weeks of December.  My daughter lives in Corvallis, so it is the best place for me to be for the holidays.

So now that I have shared my latest heartbreaking news, let’s look at verses 6 through 8 in the 3rd chapter of Ecclesiastes.

  a time to search and a time to give up

When Kevin, Lian and I moved to Bend in September 2016, we collectively knew only two people:  Duane, our real estate agent and Kathy Daniels, my good friend.  Those first few months in Bend were a time to search for new friendships, so we had neighbors over for potlucks, joined the gym, invited people to our house church and volunteered for charities. Each of these activities made it easy to meet people but not necessarily easy to build meaningful friendships. 

By the time February rolled around, I became very discouraged about how unavailable people were in Bend, and I felt like no one cared to be my friend.  One night when I was feeling particularly down about my lack of friendships in Bend, I decided to start a Meetup, and I called it the Bend Women’s Bible Study Meetup.

At the time I created this Meetup, two girls were living with us through the One Year Challenge program sponsored by our fellowship of churches, so my daughter, the two girls and I decided to meet every other Saturday at the Dudley’s Bookshop and Café in downtown Bend to read the Bible and drink good coffee with our new friends who signed up on-line for this meetup.  At our first event, one person from the community joined us, but after eight months of consistently meeting, we reached 58 members and a core group of 11 amazing women who consistently came to the Saturday Bible study. 

I am so grateful for this meetup because through this platform I have met some very special women who will be my lifelong friends. This picture was taken at a luncheon in my honor hosted by Wendy, a member of the meetup.  These women gave me a framed picture of Jeremiah 29:11 and prayed over me, asking God to bless my life as I move away from Bend. 

My friends from the meetup.

The Bible says in Matthew 7:7:

 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” 

Thank you, God, for rewarding my search for friends in Bend, Oregon. Thank you for the women in this picture:  Kathy, Cheryll, Wendy, Dianna, Karen, Kim, Nancy and Kathy.  I’m also thankful for two active members who are not in this picture: Ashley who stopped by to give me a gift and a hug, and for Suzanne who was out of town. 

I’m glad that I never gave up on my search for friends in Bend because they were there, I just needed to keep looking. 

 a time to keep and a time to throw away

If a person believes it is always time to keep and never time to throw away, then most likely they have a hoarding problem.  Sometimes we have a difficult time knowing what to keep and what to throw away because we get attached to stuff.

I find that regularly purging my stuff helps me to evaluate my spending habits.  Sometimes I find an article of clothing in my closet that I never wore because the right occasion to wear it never came. I then take it off the hanger and put it in a bag to take to Goodwill.  Sometimes I find a jar of skin cream at the back of my drawer that I used only once. Then I realize it was there for over a year, so I throw it away thinking it is too old to use. How wasteful!  Now I only want to buy stuff that I really need so that I have to throw it away because it was used up. 

a time to tear and a time to mend

When I think of a time to tear, I think of my former co-worker, Hilary, who loved to knit in the breakroom at work. She would look at me while she was knitting and talking, and from my vantage point, she was paying little attention to her hands that were turning and clicking the knitting needles around the yarn to make it submit to a symmetric pattern. On one occasion she diverted her eyes from me and looked at her hands and realized she had gotten off course from the pattern, and she did not hesitate to tear all the work she had done during the last 10 minutes of our conversation.  

Sometimes our lives our like this knitting session with my friend Hilary.  We have stopped paying attention to the condition of our heart and how we are doing in our relationship with God because we have become distracted by the worries of this world and the things we are trying to obtain or achieve. Then one day we look away from these things and look to God and realize we have gone off course from the person we know we should be.  We decide we need to rip away the bad thoughts, habits and behaviors that are keeping us on the right path with God and our heart starts to mend.

a time to be silent and a time to speak

I find that it is a whole lot easier to find a time to speak rather than to find a time to be silent.  I am a talker.  My friends know this about me.  This verse in James 1:19 speaks directly to me. 

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

I get very frustrated with myself when I interrupt people when they are in a middle of a sentence.  I do this often with my daughter.  She will be telling me about something, and I’ll finish what I think she is going to say.  Sometimes when a friend is talking to me, I will be listening for the pause so that I can take control of the conversation and say what I think is SO important to say.  This is terrible conversation etiquette.  I am repenting of this as I write this. 

5 Dos of Conversation

1.     Listen more than you talk.

2.     Come to an occasion armed with topics at the ready.

3.     Tailor the conversation to the listener.

4.     Take your turn.

5.     Think before you speak.

  a time to love and a time to hate

    a time for war and a time for peace.

My first thought when I read these two lines is that we should always love and never hate, and we should always seek peace and never be at war.  I looked up the word hate on, and 127 verses contain the word hate.  After I scrolled down the page to get an idea of how the Bible uses this word, I can see that there are some instances in our lives when there is a time to hate.  A few of these verses are listed below:

To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. (Proverbs 8:13)

The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame on themselves. (Proverbs 13:5)

“For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them. (Isaiah 61:8)

Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph. (Amos 5:15)

As you can see from these four verses listed above, that we are to hate what is false, prideful, evil and wrong.  The definition of hate is to dislike intensely or passionately, feel extreme aversion for.  I have found that consistently reading the Bible and then deciding to obey it keeps me shocked by sin rather than dull and amused by it. 

In conclusion, which side of each of these lines shown below are you experiencing in this season of your life?  Are you seeing the goodness of God through your pain?  Do you believe that suffering is unavoidable in this life and therefore accept it as an opportunity to draw near to God?

Are you searching or giving up?

Are you keeping or throwing away?

Are you tearing or mending?

Are you silent or are you speaking?

Are you loving or are you hating?

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