When Seasons Change
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: 2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, 6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
So, how many of you are loving the fact that summer seems to be stretching out? How many of you are grateful for 90 degree weather and lots of sun? Although low 80’s would be what I would order if I were given the chance, I will take hot or warm weather over cold weather any day. However, it’s already starting to get darker earlier, and that is just a reminder that change is coming.
Life is constantly changing, right? I am well-aware of the changes I am personally experiencing as I am knocking on the door to age 50. Some days I feel like there is more hair in my hairbrush than there is on my head. Just being honest! Some days there is a bit of a snap, crackle and pop in my hips and knees when I get up. I used to be able to keep everything I needed to remember in my head. I never had to write down a daily agenda or “to do” list. I could keep dates in my mind for the entire year. Not so much anymore. I can’t burn the candle at both ends anymore. Sleep isn’t just something I need, but it is something I look forward to. Does anybody know what I am talking about?
During this last decade, I think I have become more even more conservative, but more grace-giving and compassionate at the same time which may sound strange, but it’s true. I’m a different person than I was a decade ago. There are changes that have taken place in my life that I have intentionally sought and changes that have come into my life that have been beyond my control or have been simply changes that I anticipated but have caused me to have to adjust the way I think or the way I spend my time or the way I approach people.
One big change is something we have worked toward for 18 years, something we prayed a lot about over the years, and is something we expected and planned for which is the sending of our daughter to OH for college. Even though this was a path we and she chose and we support, it still requires an adjustment in our lives. We only get to hear her voice once or twice a week. I’m grateful for texting, but it isn’t the same. She is meeting people and having experiences for which we have no frame of reference. We are having to support her in an entirely different way. She left campus last weekend, Labor Day weekend, and took a trip, but it wasn’t a trip to come home. Her boyfriend picked her up and they drove to Northwest, OH to spend the weekend with a young Church of God Pastor and his wife and children. They had grown close to him during the last several summers as he had been the youth camp speaker at Rippling Waters. Hannah is now “adulting” in many respects and that changes the nature of our relationship. It is what we wanted and have worked toward and know is necessary, but it still is a season where we have to pray differently, think differently, plan differently as a family and where we have to deal with the emotions that accompany her living apart from us.
What the writer of Ecclesiastes is telling us is that there are different seasons in our lives. Some will come to us as a result of our choosing. Some will not be welcomed changes. However, even those that we pursue on purpose will cause us to to have to make adjustments we could not have anticipated, adjustments that may be hard, adjustments that may come with sacrifice, but adjustments that are necessary and how we adjust may determine what happens next or may determine how long an unwanted season will last.
I was asked to preview a ladies’ Bible study that is going to be released soon by Warner Press and one of the key concepts of the study was that we need to learn to be good stewards of everything that happens to us in life; both the good things and the bad things. While we may never be fully ready for a season to change in our lives, I think we can live by some principles that will enable us to move through life’s transitions as gracefully as possible. When we think of being good stewards, we think of being good stewards of God’s blessings, good stewards of our resources or our time, but what if God calls us to be faithful stewards of even the unwanted or hard experiences we face? As one song writer put it a few years back, “What if our blessings come through raindrops? What if our healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near? What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?”
What if the only way we will move toward God or His purposes is if He ushers in or allows change into our lives? What if the only way we will appreciate the good times is to experience some difficult ones? What if the only way we will change and become like Jesus is to endure suffering as He did? What if we will only pursue spiritual growth is when change necessitates we cry out to God? What if our testimony to the world about who Jesus truly is, is only seen during moments when we have to deal with a new and tough season in our lives? What if in order to experience a promotion or an elevated status in life, we first have to suffer some disappointment or heartache?
Change comes whether we are happy about it, prepared for it, or welcoming of it. So, how can we plan to navigate change with courage, grace, and peace so that we can make the most out of each season and glorify while we are in them?
Maybe the first step in dealing well with the changing of seasons is to accept that change is something we can’t change.
Our bodies are fragile. We will experience sickness in our lifetimes. Accidents will happen. They can complicate our lives for months and even years. We will try and fail at some things. We may have to go back to school or learn something entirely new in order to provide for our families. There will likely be job loss or job transition that is stressful. We will lose loved ones who pass on. There will be moments when we are treated unfairly. There is usually part of our story that involves years of plenty and years of want. Sometimes the lean years aren’t the early ones. Our kids do grow up and have lives of their own. Grand kids who once had lots of time and need for the nurturing of a grandparent grow up and get busy building a life of their own. Those friends we knew during our work days aren’t as easily accessed once we retire. Some people move out of our lives due to relationship issues or relocation issues. Those of you in school or who are pursuing an advanced degree know that sometimes you just have to bury your head in the books for several months until your schedule can ease up. “It is what it is.”
Many of you are well-acquainted with the Serenity Prayer, but I thought it would be good to share it together. Take a moment to read it in the quietness of your own heart:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
After we accept that change is simply part of life, what can we do?
1. In seasons of change, trust God with your future.
Where you find yourself isn’t where you are always going to remain. If you are in an unwanted or pressure-filled season, it won’t last forever, and God will be at work in whatever season you are in to take you to a place of blessing. Don’t let your current difficulty define your future destination. Make a decision in the dark seasons or the cold seasons of life to talk to God about your future and to rest secure that He has a plan.
God tells us in Jeremiah 29:11-13 that He has a hope and a future for those who are seeking Him with their whole heart, so don’t allow a difficult season to inform your future. You can let your tough season break your heart or you can give you heart completely to God so that He can strengthen you and help you through it. Sometimes we adopt the mindset that our current situation is the way it will always be. You can’t tell what is yet ahead for you based on your current situation. If you feel lonely, don’t tell yourself you will always live lonely. If you are pursuing your relationship with God and you are disclosing the desires of your heart to Him, He is at work to bring something to you to enable you to be fulfilled and not to be lonely. You’re just in a season. You aren’t in forever. You won’t be in forever until you get to heaven. If life is difficult for you financially, if you are sincerely seeking God on the subject, He will lead you out of this season and into a place where you can experience stability. Don’t assume the worst. What you are experiencing is a chapter in the story of your life. It isn’t the entire book. Don’t let a chapter become the entire book.
Often we are desperate to move through unwanted seasons as quickly as possible. It is human nature to not want to have to struggle. Sometimes, in our desire to move on, we move impulsively and make bad decisions that have lasting consequences. Resist the urge to make a permanent decision based on a temporary circumstance. I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t make decisions or shouldn’t seek ways to alleviate suffering in your life, but what I do want us to understand is that seasons change. In six months, things could be totally different in your life, and if you try to take the bull by the horns to try to make something happen, the future God desires for you just pass this season may not be able to come to pass or may not be able to come to pass in a timely manner because you will extend the current unwanted season by making bad decisions rather than trusting God with your future.
If you can take heart in the truth that your current struggle is not forever and that a hope and a future awaits because God holds your future, you can be peaceful and not panic as you walk with God through this season.
2. In seasons of change, walk by faith and not by sight.
Resist the urge to define whether life is good or bad only by what you are seeing and experiencing. There is another dimension beyond the physical and emotional. We have to stay focused on the spiritual aspect of our lives and on who God is and on what God can do. The worst thing you experience may turn out to be the vehicle through which you receive your life’s greatest blessing.
God initiated great change into Abraham’s life when He called Abraham to a new place, and He didn’t even tell him where the place was. He just asked him to walk by faith. He just told him to start walking and to trust that God would tell him whenever he needed to turn to the left or to the right. If Abraham was going to obey God, everything about his life would change. He would leave everything familiar about his life except his family that would journey with him. He wouldn’t live as a settled person for a while. He would be traveling for a long time which meant constant change.
Change wasn’t going to come without blessings, however. Listen, when God brings about a change in our life, it is because He is going to bring about a blessing that we can’t receive where we are.
Listen to Genesis 12:1-3 1 The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
This is no short list of blessings, right? Abraham was going to be the Father of many nations. When some people pass on, folks may talk about them for a generation or two, but Abraham is someone who is still being widely talked about today. Through his offspring, eventually the Messiah descended. All people on earth are blessed because of his willingness to embrace the change God proposed. His life is a study guide for how to walk by faith. He is famous because of His faith. Listen, without faith, there won’t be obedience, and without obedience there won’t be blessing.
If God is prompting change in your life, you have to believe that His way is best. That takes faith. You have to believe that He will take care of you during the time of transition. You may have to believe that He will provide for you or that it is worth it to take God up on His offer. None of those things will be accomplished without faith. The exercising of faith proves that we believe that God knows what He is doing. The Bible teaches that it pleases God when we exercise faith, and that without faith, it is impossible to please God.
Often, when we think about change, we think about how hard it is or what it will cost us. We think about the sacrifice involved, but what we need to focus on are good things that can result when God brings change into our lives.
Don’t focus on what change will cost you, but focus on what God can do in your life when you follow Him in faith.
In seasons of change, cling to what is unchanging.
God’s love for you never changes. Jeremiah 31:3 says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. 4 I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful. 5 Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; the farmers will plant them and enjoy their fruit.
I love that word, “Again.” God was saying, “You have had good times. There have been happy days. Because I am in an unchanging love relationship with you, I am committed to you. It isn’t always going to be like this. You will be strengthened. You will get through this season and you will rejoice and sing and dance again. You will be productive and there will be something to show for your life.” Rest in the unchanging love of God that has the power to build you up again and again and again. Look at verse 12 of Jeremiah 31:
12 They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the LORD— the grain, the new wine and the oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more. 13 Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. 14 I will satisfy the priests with abundance, and my people will be filled with my bounty,” declares the LORD.
You won’t always sorrow. You won’t always mourn. There is coming a day when you will dance again!
You know the Apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesians in chapter 3 to be able to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know that love that surpasses knowledge so that they could be filled to the measure of all of the fullness of God. What a powerful prayer. I wonder what they were going through when Paul offered that prayer.
When is it that you discover how much someone really loves you? Isn’t it usually when you go through a difficult time and they don’t leave your side? Isn’t it usually when you are struggling and they offer support? Isn’t it when you are in need and they help provide for you? Isn’t it usually when you are in a bind and they pick up some of the slack for you? Don’t you usually uncover the depths of a person’s love and compassion when you are in a season of need and they come closer to you and maybe even sacrifice their time or their reasons to help? Isn’t that when the love or lack of love is exposed?
When you are in the midst of a change that doesn’t feel good, that seems overwhelming and dark, press in to the love of God. Fall more in love with Him because He is the only thing that never changes. Everything about God is fixed. His love is unchanging. His Word is unchanging.
Psalm 119:89 says, “Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.”
Do you know what a miracle it is that the Word of God stands firm? It truly has stood the test of time. Through the passing of time, through the rising and falling of cultures, though it has been attacked, though it has been burned, though it has been outlawed in places, though it is picked apart by critics-it remains. People who have opposed it have come and gone, and the Word of God continues to be the most read book in the world. Google it, and you will see it is still number one. It is still relevant. It still has the same power it had when the Holy Spirit inspired it to be written down.
Isaiah 40:8 says, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God stands forever.”
Isn’t that a beautiful picture of stability in the midst of change? The green grass is withering. The flowers that were so beautiful, that we worked so hard to plant and maintain, that brought us joy when we looked at them, are now falling over. We are coming to the end of a season. Things are changing, but one thing remains unchanging. When you need something to get you through a difficult time of change, cling to the Word of God. Read it. Listen to it. Meditate on it. Memorize it. It will make a positive difference.
The love of God and the Word of God have power to keep you safe in the midst of change. They will help you draw closer to God Himself. Hebrews 13:8 tells us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
My season of life has changed. Part one of my empty nest season is in full swing. I could lament what has changed and mourn what I have obviously lost or I can rejoice that Hannah is where she needs to be and is moving into adulthood with confidence. I can view this as a win and not as a loss. I can also choose to dance. Did you see in our text from Ecclesiastes that there is a time to dance? I’m actually choosing to seize this time to dance. Her transition means part of my responsibility has ended. Not fully, of course, but at least in part. This isn’t just a graduation moment for her, but it is a graduation moment for me as a parent. I’m choosing to dance. Literally. Tomorrow night, I start my first—ever dance class. I’m taking clogging! Can you imagine the stories that I am going to have to tell? “The Clogging Preacher.” I feel a Youtube channel coming on.
When seasons change, we have a choice. We can choose to accept that life is full of transitions and ask for grace to move through them or we can whine, complain and lament which won’t make life very fun. We can choose to give our future to God and believe that as we follow Him in faith, He will lead us to a better place. We can go deeper in His love, become more intentional about taking in His Word, and hold tighter to His hand.