My favorite season is fall. Fall means cooler temperatures. Fall means leaves are changing colors. It means campfires and tents. Fall means I don’t have to cut the grass every week. Fall’s the best, but no matter how hard I try, I can never get it to stay fall all year long. I can wear flannel, sip hot apple cider, and visit all the pumpkin patches in my state, and fall will still eventually end. Much like the weather, I’ve had seasons in my life that I loved and wished lasted forever. I’ve also had seasons I wanted to end as soon as possible.
Let’s take a look at a section of scripture from Ecclesiastes that explains how life’s seasons are fleeting and fluctuating. The book of Ecclesiastes opens with the teacher saying, “Meaningless, meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” Well, that seems pretty dismal. The original Hebrew word in this text for “meaningless” is the word “Hevel.” Hevel gives a slightly broader perspective as its full translation is vapor or smoke. The teacher is giving us this idea that life is temporary and like smoke, there is nothing in this life to actually “hold on to.” With this imagery in mind, let’s look at these powerful words in Ecclesiastes.
Let’s talk about seasons.
READ: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven, A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest, A time to kill and a time to heal, A time to tear down and a time to build up, A time to cry and a time to laugh., A time to grieve and a time to dance, A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones, A time to embrace and a time to turn away, A time to search and a time to quit searching. There is a time to keep and a time to throw away, A time to tear and a time to mend, A time to be quiet and a time to speak, A time to love and a time to hate, A time for war and a time for peace.
The Seasons of Life
There is a time and season for everything. The teacher is telling his audience that times and seasons in life are going to ebb and flow. He is quite literally setting expectations for those listening. Setting expectations can be a huge benefit in our lives and ministries.
Our outcomes are better when our expectations are set. Here’s what I believe the teacher is trying to communicate to us: God is with us through every season. Some are going to be mountain tops and some are valleys. God’s love, grace, and goodness do not change through any of them. It can be easy for us to associate those mountain tops with God’s goodness, and that can be correct. However, when we associate positives with God’s goodness or blessing, then we ultimately assume hard seasons mean God is angry at us or punishing us. The teacher of this passage is telling us that God’s love and goodness have nothing to do with the season we are in. He is reminding us that seasons change, yet God doesn’t.
I have walked through seasons of life where I felt forgotten, tossed out, pushed aside, and no longer useful in the middle of that season. Looking back, I see that God’s goodness never left me. Did that make the season easier? Absolutely not. However, it did show me that He was right there in the middle of it, right next to me. His heart broke when mine did. My tears were shared with Him. What I didn’t understand, He did. His goodness was in the midst of my hurt. When we begin to realize that God is with us through each season, we can take action. Each season brings its own set of challenges. Even those mountain top seasons have struggles. So what do we do? What are our action steps?
Here are 3 steps to handling different seasons in life and ministry:
Take Time to Rest & Reflect
One thing we often forget to do is rest and reflect. When we have a season of harvest, we tend to focus solely on the harvest, “Look at how many got saved! Look how many showed up! Look how many have been baptized!” These can be amazing things, but when we hit a season of harvest, it can be easy to push forward immediately in search of more, bigger or better.
On the opposite side, when we have a season of planting, we can tend to keep our heads down, do the work, and think only of the things to come. If we are going to own our season, we need to make time to rest and reflect. When things are great, we want to keep that momentum. However, we need to make time to stop and look at what God has truly done and reflect on what He is currently doing.
When the work is hard and back-breaking, we want to just get it done so we can see that harvest. However, we need to stop and reflect on how this season is growing our community and us. We are given multiple commands to rest and reflect throughout scripture, and for good reason. Rest and reflection are about so much more than a “break from the work”. It’s about remembering that God is the provider in all of it. When we rest and reflect, we see that God gave us the strength, the ability, the resources, and the opportunities to “do the work.” We can see that God has His hands on every part of our current season, and He is in control. Rest and reflection remind us to stop and give Him the glory for what He is doing and has done.
Ask God for His Direction
No matter what our season is, God is the one who directs our path. It can be all too easy to “take the reigns” during a season of joy or excitement, and just as easy to lay blame on others when we land in a season that is hard or painful. No matter where we find ourselves, we have to remember to ask God for our next step. Sometimes that step leads us into another season, and sometimes it keeps us right where we are. Remember the words from Ecclesiastes, “There is a time and a season for everything.” Your season is not a direct result of God’s blessing or punishment. It’s literally just a season that will change.
It’s easy in both high and low seasons to get stuck there. When we are in a season of building up, laughing, or dancing it can be easy to take a perspective of “I’ve arrived” and grow stagnant. On the other hand, when we are in a season of tearing down, crying, or grieving, we can easily slip into a failure mentality that is crippling. Neither of these seasons of ministry is the finish line. The finish line is running the race until we get to, “Well done good and faithful servant.” In any season we must move forward.
Different seasons of ministry and life can be difficult. Changes in your life, your job, your ministry, or your calling can feel like impassable hurdles. If we want to successfully own our season, we have to be intentional about how we work through it. Taking time to rest and reflect produces gratitude for where you are and where you have been. Asking God for His direction reminds us that God is in control. Then, as we continue moving, we avoid our perspectives of who we are from becoming askew.
Seasons in life are just as fleeting as the seasons of weather. They are going to change no matter how much you may or may not want them to. When those changes happen, let’s remember the teacher’s words, “everything is a vapor”. So stop trying to hold onto mountain top seasons as if they are your reward and stop viewing hard seasons as being dropped or forgotten.
God doesn’t just work in seasons, He works in you.
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