Do you ever look at something that others think is extremely ugly, but instead, you find it lovely? There is a road that we travel down every once in a while, and in the middle of a field stands a single, dead tree. There is not one leaf on it. The branches are black and twisted. Could a fire have damaged it? Lightning? I don’t know. What I do know is that I find the old, twisted, majestic tree a beautiful sight. This makes me think of our passage this week.
Ecclesiastes 3 begins with a poem about everything having a season. There is a time for all things, and all things flow in and out of that time. In order for that tree to be the size that it is and stand out the way it does, it had to be a great tree of growth. It had flourished at one time and had come into its place in that field. It provided shelter and shade for the livestock that roamed underneath. At one point in its long life, it knew what it felt to reach to the sky and to blow in the wind, but now it knows what it feels like to lose all of that. It provides no shelter or shade. If it moves too much in the wind, its fragile limbs will fall off, AND YET, I still find beauty in this season of that tree.
Can we find beauty in all seasons? Is that what the Preacher is trying to help us understand and embrace? “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (verse 11).
When Jerry and I got married we vowed for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. In our 21 years of marriage we have experienced all of those things, and we now look at young people getting married with the knowledge that they don’t know exactly what is coming their way. I remember reading in a book once that not knowing what the future holds is the grace of God to us. I think about that when reading passages like this.
If I know a time of mourning is coming, I would try to avoid it at all cost, but if I know a time of laughter is coming, I wouldn’t be content in waiting. So the question for me and for us is this: can we find contentment and trust in all the different seasons that come?
The Preacher helps us wrestle with the idea that there is “a time for every matter under heaven,” for not every matter will bring us happiness. Yet, he also says, “ I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.” God gifts us with the basic things of life where we can find pleasure, so that, in all seasons, we can still find goodness, purpose, and pleasure.
This concept isn’t distinct to Ecclesiastes. The gospel in and of itself is the declaration of the good news. Would we be in need of good news if bad news didn’t also exist? Even in our salvation, it is a mixture. We must understand and admit our limitations and failures. We must confess we are deserving of God’s wrath and separation from His goodness. BUT GOD. We are unable to change our situation, but God knows that, so the good news arrives and brings us to salvation. This truth brings us gladness.
What does this have to do with my ugly, twisted, majestic tree? Well, in some ways, we are that ugly, twisted tree. We probably can all identify times when we felt like life was exactly what we wanted, and we felt strong and lovely. But we can also identify times in our lives that we felt done, chewed up, spit out, and hopeless. This is the back and forth of life. However, unlike that tree, we have this hope of Christ: the good work He has begun in us will continue to work until the coming of Christ.