There is a right time for everything, and everything on earth will happen at the right time. Ecclesiastes 3:1
In the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes the Qoheleth* shares the wisdom he has learned through his many years and experiences. For the most part, the Qoheleth shares that many of the things or experiences that popular culture claims will provide meaning for life have been tried and found lacking. The Qoheleth describes a life of endless endeavors in which anything and everything have been tried in order to find some sort of meaning and purpose to life. Yet meaning and purpose are not found in work, possessions, riches, or relationships. Instead, purpose and meaning are ultimately only found in a relationship with God, in serving God with one’s entire being. The whole duty of humanity is to fear God and keep God’s commands.
The most famous section of the book is in chapter 3 in which Qoheleth lists various opposites that God has provided a time for. A time to live and a time to die. A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to seek and a time lose. A time for war and a time for peace. The opposites, or contradictions, are striking. Many different combinations are chosen, and almost every area of life appears to be covered. It is a reminder that every aspect of life has its own time. Our lives will never be free from difficulty and struggle. However, our lives will also always have moments filled with joy and laughter. In times of struggle it can provide prospective. In times of hopelessness a reminder that life will improve. A declaration, that while searching for meaning, all aspects of life are included.
At the same time it is a declaration that God is in control. Qoheleth begins the section by declaring there is a right time for everything and everything happens at the right time. Qoheleth believes that God is in control and is intimately involved in everything that happens. God is not some unengaged creator who spins the world into motion and then sits back waiting to see what will take place. Instead, God is intimately involved in all that takes place. God is the one holding all things together. And God is orchestrating the events of life in which there will be times of weeping and laughter, sickness and health, war and peace.
This is not to say that God is the cause of all that takes place. If you develop cancer it’s not because God wants you to have cancer. If you lose your job it’s not because God wants you to lose your job. If you suffer abuse or ridicule it’s not because God is punishing you or wanting you to suffer. Yet it is a recognition that somehow God is ordering the events of life, and that God is intimately involved in all that takes place. While the reality of sin means that sometimes events happen in this world that are outside of God’s will for the creation, God still maintains control over all things. And when evil occurs, God does not abandon us, instead, God crawls up into the midst of our disappointment and pain and redeems it so that while there may be a time of mourning, there will also be a time of joy.
Knowing that God has ordered the events of life, and that even in the midst of the unpredictability of sin God is still in control of all things, should provide comfort for life. It is far too easy for us to focus on the negative and become convinced that our lives are filled with nothing but mourning, sadness, and pain. When this happens we start to believe that either God is against us or we just do not deserve to have good things happen in our lives. Yet, even in the midst of moments of deep hurt we can take comfort in the truth that God is in control and that there is a time for every season. All lives will be filled with pain, but all lives will also be filled with joy. The reality of sin in the world will mean that we will at times suffer. Yet the goodness of God in the world means that we will also be blessed beyond measure. Everything happens at the right time is a reminder that even though bad things sometimes happen, God is working so that even the difficult times can be redeemed and used for God’s glory. God is in control. And God’s good purposes will happen at just the right time.
*Qoheleth is a transliteration of the Hebrew that is often translated into English as teacher or preacher.