Author – Rev. Deborah Valiton-Carnish, spiritual care department, Masonic Village at Elizabethtown

Many of you know we have a 3 year old son who asks all sorts of questions about life. One of his favorite questions to me is “mama, are you happy”? Usually like any good mother, I lie and say yes sweetheart I am happy. But one day he was not being a good listener, we had what mamas call in the south, a “come to Jesus meeting”, meaning we talked with him about being a good listener and not getting his own way all the time. He threw his temper tantrum which is normal for a 4 year old, and then after about 5 minutes it was over and he went back to being his normal cheerful happy self.

Well, I was still upset. And about 10 minutes later he said “mama are you happy?” to which I replied no I am not. He said why? And I explained that when he acts out and misbehaves, it makes mommy upset. It was interesting watching his 4 year old little self-try to “make up with mama”.

He brought me his bear and a few toys and would say now are you happy? He couldn’t make sense of the different emotions I was feeling. And didn’t understand why I didn’t just move on. He was very anxious that he couldn’t just make it different. Now of course he was only 4 so I wasn’t mad very long and laughed at his attempts to make me happy.

So I share this story because at different ages of life we have to learn there are ups and downs. We learn there are different times where we will feel angry, glad, mad or sad. And we eventually, as we grow up, we learn to understand emotions and all that goes with it.

However, what is harder to master or comprehend is the reality that there is also a time for every season. Just as there are times for different emotions, there are times for different events in life. Now I would venture to say, all of us in here today can tell stories of tragedy and also times of celebration that we have lived through. Nobody likes the down times, nobody wants times of struggle.

But when talking with people about their story, you would be surprised at the times people acknowledged, and even celebrated God is in those down times. It is almost as if God was able to get close to them in their struggle, and many people have stories of being pulled out of times of distress, and give God the credit for it.

So in relation to our scripture in Ecclesiastes, there is a season for everything, I am going to share a list, a list of things that there is a season or time for. According to our scripture text. Now as I read this list listen with your heart:

There is a time to…

Die, pluck out, kill, break down, weep, mourn, cast away, refrain from embracing, lose, throw away, tear, silence, hate, war.

Who wants to experience any of that? I know I don’t! But the scripture says life will bring such things, and most of us have lived it.

But because these things are present there is another list of occurrences to life…hear the other list of seasons, once again, listen with your heart:

There is a time to…

Be born, plant, heal, build up, laugh, dance, gather, embrace, gain, keep, sew, speak, love, peace,

That’s a much nicer place to live! But the truth is we don’t have that choice all the time. Life happens, and disappointment hits us all. So why do we get surprised at the different seasons of life.

When everything is going good we don’t realize that tragedy, illness, or grief is far from us. We normally only recognize it when we are in the midst of it. It is like a song that is popular on the radio now, it says, “you only miss the sun when it starts to snow you only need the light when it’s running low.” It’s the old saying; you don’t know what you have till it’s gone. It is all seasonal. There is a time for all things.

But you know the good news? We are not alone in any of it. Thousands of years ago when the author of Ecclesiastes wrote these words, humans were dealing with it all. All the different seasons. throughout life we can recognize we are all in this boat together. Because we are always moving in and out of seasons, offering a helping hand, a kind word or gentle smile is always appropriate because we never know what season someone is in.

This is what living in a community is all about. When one is up, the other may be down and it is up to us here on earth to be true representatives of Christ and to extend the hand of compassion when one needs care. To be mercy when one needs mercy. To offer grace when one is experiencing the lack of it. We are called to be with one another through this journey. But when it becomes difficult is when we are the one in need? What if we need mercy, care, grace, compassion? What if we feel like the grip we have on the rope of life is slipping?

Sometimes it is harder to be the one in need. ever want to just hide from the world so nobody can get close to that depth of pain we have? Lots of emotions can flow within us at times like these. And we don’t have answers that we so urgently pursue.

This lesson today comes from chapter three of Ecclesiastes but all throughout the book; it sets forth the teaching that human beings cannot know everything. Above all, we cannot know all the ways of God. There is a mystery to God’s working that human minds cannot comprehend, and we have humbly to acknowledge that mystery by placing our lives fully in God’s loving hands.

If we do that, if in gratitude we thank God for his many gifts and in humility submit ourselves to his plan and working, that in the grace and love of God, a difficult season is not the end of all our enjoyment and delight. Rather, through faith in Jesus Christ, our lives are partnered with God and when we leave this earth we are taken up in resurrection, our good work is completed and made perfect, and we enter God’s eternal kingdom for evermore. But in the meantime, while we are here on earth…

I like to close with an analogy that represents the presence of God. When our son Asa turned 2 years old, he had to have minor surgery to place tubes in the ears and to remove his adenoids. It was an outpatient surgery so we were there with him, the nurses warned me that when he wakes up from surgery he would most likely be lashing out and we as his parents were not to worry it was normal for toddlers because they don’t know where they are or what was going on.

Just as the nurse said, he woke up and violently started crying and thrashing around. I held him on my lap as he cried and hit and tried to make sense of his surroundings. As I held my baby close and tight I realized this was not his fault, he didn’t know what was going on…But I

did. I held him so tight but he made know acknowledgement I was even there.

The analogy is this… there are times in our lives where seasons hit us so hard; we don’t know what to do or how to react. We try to rest in trust but somehow we find ourselves fighting and kicking all the while not recognizing that just as I had my arms around a thrashing 2 year old, God has us.

God wraps his arms so strong around us. And many times we are so unaware of His presence. But you know what, He doesn’t flinch, He holds us tight and he holds close, it doesn’t matter if we are unaware what’s going on…because He knows, and he is NOT letting us go. The scripture tells us NOTHING can ever pluck us out of his hand. He will not

Let us go, regardless of the season we may be in, let this be the one thing that can spur a spirit of gratitude. Amen.