Autumn beauty took me by surprise this year. I am amazed by the colours and yet how transient it all is.
These days I find myself picking up an individual leaf in the park and just gazing at it’s beauty then looking up at the tree and seeing thousands of other leaves, waiting to drop and die.
A few weeks ago we sang the song ‘Indescribable’ with the line ‘from the colours of Fall to the fragrance of Spring’ From the amazing beauty of Autumn to the fresh new growth of spring, that sounds good! From a mellow Autumn evening to a fresh spring morning, bypassing the painful, cold, dark months of winter when everything dies back and we retreat to our lounges in the winter evenings.
Of course winter is an important season and there is a lot going on underground so that spring can arrive but it doesn’t always feel like that.
When I was going through a difficult time a few years ago someone reminded me there are also seasons in life. Not all of life is one of growth and development – there are are periods in our life that seem dark and perhaps like mid-winter – bleak – nothing seems to be happening and God seems distant – like winter in the soul.
On Sunday mornings, we have been going through the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament and considering what it teaches us about life and how to live it.
Perhaps the most well-known passage in Ecclesiastes is chapter 3 which begins ‘There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die….a time to mourn and a time to dance… etc.’ When preaching on these verses it was suggested that this passage is often used to give a very positive view of life – but in fact in the context of the book it is saying that life is an endless cycle ‘the hamster wheel of life.’ There is a rhythm to life but we don’t control that rhythm. Things happen good, bad, and indifferent but we are not the masters of our destiny – in fact it is God that is sovereign over time, creation as well as the small details of our lives. So this passage is really saying to us ‘know your place, realise you are not in control of the events of your life and the cycle of events’.
Yes, God is sovereign over the seasons – spring, summer autumn, winter – we have no say over them. So it is largely with events in our lives – God’s hand is on them or as one of the Puritan’s said ‘Man proposes, God disposes’. Or as John Lennon, one of the Beatles in the 60’s, once said ‘Life is what happens to you when you are making other plans’
One of the overall themes of Ecclesiastes is that ‘life under the sun’ – in other words life without God in the picture is ultimately meaningless – transient, vapour-like and quickly passing away. Life can be sweet and joyous and then the dark days come, days of trouble sadness and sickness and we are left wondering what it is all about. The only thing can bring meaning is knowing the living God so at the end of the book Solomon says ‘Remember your creator’, ‘Fear God and keep his commandments’. Enjoy your life but don’t put onto the pleasures of this life a weight they cannot sustain.
So as you go through what is forecast to be a cold and bitter winter why not reflect on the lessons we learnt in Ecclesiastes and remember that what ever season you find yourself in life your can find joy and ultimate satisfaction in knowing and loving God.
You can listen to the series in Ecclesiastes here
Written by Stephen Nicholls