“I ate the best strawberry today. I mean, I don’t even like strawberries, but this one was the best.”
My friend’s words struck me the instant they fell from her mouth. For whatever reason, these simple sentences are the ones that have stuck with me since talking with her a week ago.
In my Bible class earlier this semester, we were reading through Ecclesiastes. For many, this book can be seen as one of the more depressing books in the Bible. The author writes that everything is meaningless — “a chasing after the wind.” However, as I was reading chapter 3 a couple months ago, it struck a chord within me and felt directly applicable to events going on in that time of my life, and even more so now.
Solomon said, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” He goes on to name several: a time to break down and a time to build up; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to seek and a time to lose; a time to keep silent and a time to speak.
Since being homebound during this pandemic, I’m sure I am not alone in having a lot of time: to think, to pray, to reflect, and to not think, to not pray, to not reflect. In the moments when I have been able to reflect and process, I am reminded of something that has always been true but is merely sharpened and heightened now: In any season of life, you can either drive yourself insane, wishing things to be something that they are not, or you can sink into what is.
As a human — a controlling, doubtful human — I will sometimes do anything it takes to manipulate a situation to be what I think it should be; this practice is not even always deliberate, but almost subconscious and second-nature a lot of the time. I tend to believe that if something does not make me feel good, then it cannot be right.
“A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.”
A pattern I see a lot within the Christian community is a pursuit of the “laughing” or “dancing” seasons rather than the others. This makes perfect sense; we are creatures of comfort, and I don’t know if it is just me, but it sometimes feels as if there is palpable guilt when we have to talk about the darker parts of life. The weeping and mourning are seen as a means to get us to the laughing and the dancing, rather than truly pursuing the Lord.
Earlier this year, my Bible professor mentioned how appealing it is to read through passages like this or the psalms and highlight the cheerful verses. These are the parts we feel like we are supposed to resonate with, but it is so much rarer that we feel compelled to emphasize the verses where David or Solomon are pleading with God, mourning countless hardships.
I am immensely encouraged by Ecclesiastes 3, especially during these times, because I am reminded that I serve a God who does not shy away from the hard stuff and a God who is equally present in the messiness of this earth as he is in the manageable. There is a season for everything under heaven and a time for every matter. I want to adopt these words as my personal mantra, because with this in mind, we can fully rest and chase a relationship with our heavenly Father rather than good feelings. After all, if we laughed all the time, we would not understand the beauty and significance of it; we would not understand the difference between the weeping and the laughing. You simply cannot have one without the other; the one does not exist without the other.
In this season of wreckage and hurt, both physical and emotional, you do not have to choose between blind optimism or crippling pessimism. There is a middle ground, and here lies truth and growth. May this be a time when we are not afraid to let the two dance alongside each other. May we not hesitate to get on our knees and pray on the behalf of those most vulnerable right now; likewise, may we also not shy away from recognizing and embracing the silver linings that come from slowing down and having our plans changed, like breathing in fresh air on a walk to the mailbox; or having more in common with our neighbors now than we did a few weeks ago; or baking, resting, reading or eating a really good strawberry.