What extraordinary times we are living in. These are such difficult times – times of intense suffering and huge challenges across the whole world. I find it’s always helpful to read the news through the lens of God’s Word. I’ve been reminded recently of the following Bible passage:
Ecclesiastes 3v1-8 (NIV)
A Time for Everything
3 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
How fascinating that this passage of ancient scripture, written a few hundred years before the birth of Jesus, is every bit as relevant today. I just wanted to share a few thoughts about some of this passage in the context of our current world we live in and these times we are going through.
Life is still going on all around us – it is still very much ‘A time to be born’. Mothers have been having babies every day, even in the midst of a dreadful pandemic, often in challenging circumstances. I have had wonderful news of a beautiful new baby nephew born shortly after lockdown, though I haven’t been able to meet or hold him yet! Yet I’m grateful for video calls with my family, keeping in touch has never been easier or more important.
I’ve done a little bit of light gardening, so for me it’s been ‘A time to plant and a time to uproot.’ Although, for once it’s been lovely to spend more time actually sitting in the garden enjoying it than just working on it! Grateful for good weather. Yet also, this season has seen the church uprooted from our church buildings, we have been planted firmly in our homes and local communities with interesting and exciting opportunities arising as a result, amidst all the difficulties.
For so many, this is such an incredibly sad time – ‘a time to mourn’. We are all very much aware of the tragedy and sorrow that weighs heavily on so many of our families and friends. As Come Closer women, we stand with those among us who are mourning, and those who are suffering, and those who are struggling in all sorts of ways. Please know that we are praying for you. And please let us know if you need prayer or support, just contact the team.
For those with children at home, I’m sure you’ve experienced so many tears and laughter, in fact probably much of the above passage is likely to be relevant to you all at once! You may well have been pushed to extremes of highs and lows in your parenting and family life, every day. And I’m guessing that this one is especially relevant: ‘A time to scatter [toys] and a time to gather them’! (Yes I tweaked the wording slightly but I think it fits). Anyway I’d like to send you a virtual hug right now! You’re amazing. Let’s all pray for those around us with children and encourage and cheer them on.
And we can see there is indeed ‘a time to refrain from embracing’ – who knew social distancing was in the Bible! Isn’t that extraordinary? Sadly, this is a season for not meeting and hugging one another. It’s so incredibly hard, but God knows it’s necessary at this time…
‘A time to search and a time to give up.’ Remember the panic buying and empty shelves in the shops? People went crazy trying to find toilet rolls, tinned goods and pasta. Yet God knows what we have needed. In my family’s experience, though shopping has not been easy, we have had plenty enough, and we’re thankful for God’s provision and for all those working to ensure we are provided for.
I have also been searching and giving up at home – in the last couple of months I managed to lose a pair of leggings (gave up searching and then found them 3 weeks later in my wardrobe of all places), my phone (I definitely did not give up looking but got help to look for it – eventually found it in the laundry peg bag!), and some lip balm (still missing – I’ve given up for now and have been using a replacement!). It seems the ‘search to give up ratio’ depends on the importance and value of the item to the owner looking for it! This reminds me of Jesus’ parables about seeking the Kingdom of God (e.g. the pearl of great worth, the lost coin…). This is a time for us to seek first the Kingdom of God – to invest, to spend time in prayer, reading our Bibles and worshiping the Lord. This is most definitely not the time to give up…but to keep on seeking God.
It’s also been ‘A time to keep and a time to throw away’. I’m sure many of us have been using this extra time at home to have a clear out, to declutter, maybe decorate, clean, tidy and reorganise our homes? Though perhaps it’s more ‘A time to set things aside in the shed until the tips and charity shops are properly open!’.
It’s not just physical items in our homes that we’ve been reassessing, but for many it’s also a time to reflect on life, to make decisions on life goals, to make changes and build new healthy habits of self-care, and spiritual disciplines. If you’re in this position, bring it all to God, and ask for His guidance for all your decisions about what to ‘keep’ and ‘throw away’ – ask him to lead and guide you through this – and take time to listen for His prompting.
For me, this has also been ‘A time to tear and a time to mend’ quite literally. I’ve been doing an art project called ‘100 Days of Collage Praise’, and have been gradually filling a little journal with a small collage every day that I create while listening to a Praise and Worship song or hymn. This is one way I have discovered I can worship God in this season. I absolutely love to rip paper and magazine pictures, and glue them into my artwork – so it’s definitely been ‘a time to tear!’.
And I’ve also had my sewing box out, I’ve been catching up on some mending, repairing clothes and cushions, and more recently trying to sew a few facemasks (not very successfully!). I’ve also been doing some prayerful creative sewing – joining in with others to ‘Stitch & Pray – Create a Patchwork Prayer’. This involved praying as I stitched a small fabric square, and posted it off to be sewn into a quilt of prayers for our nation. You might want to have a go and join in – just click on this link for more details:
It’s such a great way to pray creatively and to join with others while praying for people and situations and our nation at this time.
And many of these verses have struck me anew recently in light of the important battle against racism, injustice and inequality which has come to the forefront again with fresh urgency for radical, lasting action. I pray this is indeed ‘a time to heal’. ‘A time to tear down and a time to build’. ‘A time to tear (lament) and a time to mend’. This is not ‘a time to be silent’, but ‘a time to speak’. To hate what is evil and love what is good. How you respond to this is between you and God, and I encourage you to bring it to Him in prayer and ask Him to show you what you can do.
In these days we’re living in, this is a time to actively wage war against the schemes of the enemy who comes to steal, kill and destroy. We do this by putting on the full armour of God each day, and to stand our ground – together. We lift up our Shield of Faith over ourselves, over one another, over our loved ones, over this nation and this beautiful broken world we live in. We hold forth the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God – powerful, living and active. We buckle firmly the Belt of Truth around us, we cover our hearts with the Breastplate of Righteousness, and our minds with the Helmet of Salvation. And we wear our Shoes of the Readiness of the Gospel of Peace – I’ve only recently begun to realise afresh that these shoes are such powerful weapons as they carry the holy ground of the Presence of God with us into our everyday lives and the world around us! That changes things – it takes territory from the enemy and brings the Kingdom of God wherever we are.
So, wherever you are, know that He is with you. He is YHWH Shammah ‘God is there’.
I am reminded, through God’s Word, that our times are in His hands. And His hands are the hands that created the universe, this world and all creation, and each of us. His hands were pierced for our sins upon the cross, to offer us restoration of relationship with our God – who we can now call ‘Abba’ or ‘Father’. His hands hold the future, and give us hope that although things will get much worse before they get better (according to Revelation) – our God is Sovereign and will make all things new. One day He will deal with all that is wrong in this world once and for all. God has the final say. He has set eternity in our hearts, and has made a way for us to dwell in His eternal presence today and always.