This last month, many parts of my usual routine have ended, and some have been replaced by new routines. Our days all look very much like the day before, but the days are busy. Getting the boys to do their school work each day, figuring out what parts of ministry I can do from home with the help of tech, cleaning, cooking, then cleaning and cooking, and then cleaning and cooking some more. We have two elementary aged boys, so there’s been a lot of eating and then the subsequent mess that goes along with food preparation. There are so many parts of this situation that I never could have expected in a million years. Never did I imagine I would find myself in a season of “homeschooling” one kid, let alone two. Never did I think I would find myself in a season where I would not be able to see my extended family. Never did I think I would find myself in a season of having to reevaluate how I do ministry to this extent, but these are the seasons I’m in. You may find yourself in your own unpredicted season. Perhaps there are parts of your life that have changed now that you never could have imagined.
I was listening to a talk by a Christian author this morning and he brought up a passage in Ecclesiastes. Chances are you know the section:
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. 2 A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. 3 A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. 4 A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.
The author in Ecclesiastes goes on comparing seasons of life. This section of scripture was our theme at the Youth Snow Retreat in January. None of us had any idea what we were headed into come March. We had talked about the Autumn moments in our life—where you can feel change in air, we discussed the Summer moments we experience where we see spiritual growth and life. We talked about Spring—you know, those moments where you see a glimpse of hope that you’re going to make it through whatever you’re facing? And then we talked about Winter. These are the cold, barren times in our life. It feels empty and bleak. There is a time to grieve. We each respond to sadness differently. Some of us want to just power through it, and some want to deny that anything is happening. For others, you may find yourself really angry right now. Some of us want to know who to blame for this situation, and others of us just want to cry. There is a time to grieve. There are a couple things that statement tells me:
- Mourning is normal, in fact expect it. Maybe you’ve had moments where you felt guilty for being sad. You may have thought to yourself, “but I have so much to give thanks for, and there’s other people who are hurting worse than I am. I should just get over it.” Author Brene Brown calls this “comparative suffering.” It’s the idea that we compare our level of struggle to those around us, and then tell ourselves that we don’t have the right to be sad, because it could be way worse, or we tell other people they don’t have the right to be sad because it could be way worse. You’re right it could be worse, but there’s also enough compassion and empathy to go around. God has enough time and loves to listen to everyone’s hurts no matter how small we may think they are. None of us were prepared for this season we now find ourselves in, and so there is going to be some grieving. I’m in charge of the education program at Good Shepherd, and yet two weeks ago, I hid in my walk-in closet in the dark and cried because I felt overwhelmed by trying to teach two kids school. Part of me wanted to tell myself to knock it off and pull it together, but there in my closet I decided to just let the tears fall, and my prayer rise. And guess what: I felt better. If today tears are falling for you, take it God. If today you are feeling overwhelmed, sad, angry, disappointed, know that he’s ready for a those emotions too.
- Mourning is not supposed to go on forever, The author says there’s a time for mourning, so we should realize that it is going to happen, but a time for grieving means there is also a time NOT to grieve. There is a time to dance and laugh and rejoice too. Just like grieving and crying are going to be a part of our lives, we can also expect that there will be times to rejoice and celebrate too. I’m not still in my closet crying. I have come out and since resumed life and teaching the boys. Of course, there may be more tears and trips to the closet in the future. Chances are you will grieve something in the coming days. Sometimes you may not even be able to pinpoint what you’re sad about. It might just be an overwhelming feeling that washes over you. Chances are, though, that you will also find something to rejoice about in the coming days. We are separated physically from each other right now, but we are united in this shared grieving and rejoicing.
The chapter of Ecclesiastes ends with this:
9 What do people really get for all their hard work? 10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 12 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. 13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.
I love the line, “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” I take comfort in those words. I worship a God who is going to making EVERYTHING beautiful for its own time, because His timing is perfect. The scope of what He is doing in my life is so big that I can’t even fathom what His plans for me are. He’s been with me since the beginning and He promises He’ll see me through to the end. I have seen beautiful moments in the last month. I have seen God take away my plans and give me experiences and glimpses of him that are far better than anything I could come up with. I have grieved, but have also danced and rejoiced.