By Corenna Boucher Hoyt
Daily Lectionary reading: Ecclesiastes 3:1-13; Psalm 8; Revelation 21:1-6a; Matthew 25:31-46
Selected passage for reflection: Ecclesiastes 3:1-13
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 10-11 NRSV
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
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 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.
I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Winter is not my favorite season. I live in New England where winter is so cold that my toes hurt almost constantly; the days are short; everything looks dead, and it’s hard to get around on the icy streets and sidewalks, not to mention the cardiac episode I have every time my teenage son drives away on slick roads.
It can also be beautiful, with ice on tree branches that sparkle in the sun. These branches empty of leaves allow me to see farther and perceive things I cannot see in other seasons. Everything appears dead, but deep underground important work is happening as seeds die and go dormant. While snow fertilizes the soil, they silently prepare to sprout in Spring, and when that snowfall comes, the noises are quieted. In fact, winter storms have created some of my favorite memories of reading with my children by lantern light in the quiet of power loss with the world blanketed in white.
The writer of Ecclesiastes starts his book with the words, “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” He has experienced incredible ups and devastating downs, and he has questions! Why is there so much suffering? Where is God in the midst of life? Where is comfort for the oppressed? What is the purpose in the mundane days? Toil? Wisdom? Anything we do? I’ve pondered these same questions with friends as we achieved the accomplishment, completed the work, obtained the degree or found the relationship that promised satisfaction then left us feeling sold short. We have asked these questions as we witness injustice and when, just like the cold winter trees in my yard, it seems like our lives have been stripped away of all warmth and life.
Then here, in chapter 3, the author begins to make sense of things, "for everything there is a season." God will meet us IN our daily lives, toils and losses as well as the joys. God will not waste our pain. NO EXPERIENCE IS WASTED.
When the figurative icy winds of winter blow in my life, I want to run away even more than I want to run from New England winters, but if we don’t allow God to work within us in the seasons of loss and emptiness, we will not experience the fruits of spring or the fullness of summer. We must learn to mourn, creating space to sit with sorrow. We must allow room for the emptiness to cut deeply so seeds of hope we cannot yet perceive will become fertile. We must find spaces to weep and examine what the emptiness allows us to see that we could not before. We must lament, as we learn to LIVE INTO AND OUT OF THE PAIN.
God can turn our mourning into dancing, but we cannot avoid the mourning. We need to embrace the mourning AND the dancing, the joy AND the sorrow.
The short days and colder weather of winter is inviting us to slow down and examine what it is time for in our lives.
Use Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 to reflect on your life in this season. What needs to be healed? Torn down? Built up? Gathered? Embraced? A boundary set? Kept? Thrown away? Sought? Set free? Where might you need to be silent? Speak up? What do you need to mourn? Is it time to dance? You might want to take some time to write your own paraphrase of this passage that reflects your life.
Lament is an honest, never white-washed complaint, and it is so much more. Lament points to what God has done and is doing. When we learn to lament, it leads us to hope. To learn more and write our own lament click here.
LORD God, as winter weather and shorter days invite us to slow down, may we make space for whatever spiritual season you are inviting us to. May we have the courage to allow the deep work you will do in us through the sorrows, without building a monument to the past where we are tempted to worship. May we instead live into AND out of the pain. We trust your promise to restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us in Christ and by your Spirit for you have overcome the world. Amen
“Don't surrender your loneliness so quickly. Let it cut you deeper. Let it ferment and season you as few humans and even divine ingredients can. Something missing in my heart tonight has made my eyes so soft, my voice so tender, my need for God absolutely clear.” Hafiz
About the Author
Corenna has a lifetime passion for ministries of reconciliation and healing. She enjoys speaking and preaching for various ministries. Corenna is an Evangelical Covenant Church pastor, sent as a missionary to Young Life in Rhode Island, where she lives with her two sons who enjoy church, martial arts, music and outdoor activities together. firstname.lastname@example.org