Everyone has either heard their parents say or said themselves to a child, “There is a time and place for that!” While we may not have liked hearing it that statement is true. We could probably think of a lot of things that there is a specific time and place for. There is a time and place to throw a football around; probably in a field, not during dinner in the house. There is a time and place to swim; probably not in the middle of winter or in our kitchen sinks. And there is a time and place for us to sleep but probably not at work, during our classes, or during a phone conversation with our grandparents. We can think of hundreds of different things that have specific times and places that are appropriate.
Ecclesiastes 3 has a lot to do with that famous parental statement. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, "He (meaning God) has made everything beautiful in its time." And in chapter 3 verse 1, "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the sun."
Here we see the old fashion way of saying, “There is a time and place for that!” “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” and “He has made everything suitable for its time.” (nrsv)
Recently I wrote under Life as a Student about what God was teaching me about His own rhythms He has created in this world and in our own lives. The author of Ecclesiastes writes a chunk of this book as his own personal reflection. This author in the Old Testament has realized that human wisdom and the human way of doing things isn’t always best. In fact, he’s realizing that it’s not good at all! In chapter 6 he writes, “For who knows what is good for mortals while they live the few days of their vain life, which they pass like a shadow?” Then later, “No man can contend with One who is stronger than he.” This is powerful stuff and a powerful moment of recognition for the author. While he is reflecting on wisdom, on life, on what humans think and pursue compared to what God thinks and has ordered he writes these words, “He has made everything suitable for its time.”
We can think of normal patterns in our daily lives I’m sure: showering, dinner time, church, Jesus time, gatherings with friends, work, play, etc. These are all part of our daily patterns, our life patterns that we have created. We move to a rhythm that we’ve written for ourselves. What the author of Ecclesiastes is showing us is that for one thing, that’s normal! “There is a time for everything” But he also challenges us with the knowledge that, “He”, the LORD, “has made everything suitable for its time.” Other versions say “appropriate” another “beautiful”, but the point is the same. The Lord created things for a certain time; He created things with rhythms, a pattern, a beat, with order.
It’s easy for us to think of patterns that we create for our own lives. It’s easy for us to also make necessary adjustments in order for us to keep those patterns and rhythms that we love and function so well with when they are in place.
Our culture is notorious for indulgence and excessiveness as well as individualism. One thing we are really good at is changing so much and getting what we want when we want it. Some things are silly and other things are more serious and can have more of an effect on us than we might think. Sick of your hair? Change it! Sick of your spouse? Get rid of him or her! Tired of nurturing that same friend? Ignore her phone calls and find another friend. We are really good at adjusting our lives to our preferences and rhythms and often times it leaves us with very little balance, with very little stability, with very little natural rhythms that we can depend on.
We are so familiar with our own rhythms that we can name them off the top of our heads: get up, eat, shower, coffee stop, work, lunch, work, home for dinner, homework with kids, watch the game, go to bed. ..or something similar to that. My question is how familiar are we with God’s rhythms? Can we even name some that are natural for Him to incorporate into our lives? In Ecclesiastes we read some of creation’s rhythms as well as some that apply to us.
In creation we see a rhythm of seasons. Spring brings new life. Summer brings welcomed heat. Autumn leaves change with the weather. Winter brings sleep for a lot of nature. We see plants die in order to bloom and we see the circle of life. We are familiar with a lot of creation’s rhythms, but think about our daily lives. What rhythms would the Lord incorporate? Have we found God’s rhythm in this world? How do we do that?
Make time. Constantly moving does not help us see a rhythm. For a song you have to stop and listen. For a heartbeat you have to be almost silent and still. For breathing while giving birth you have to focus. The rhythm of God is no different! In order to hear the rhythm given to us for this life we have to stop, listen, remain still, and silent at times, and focus.
God's rhythms can be seen and practiced through the life of Jesus. In His 33-ish years of life there are some exercises He did repeatedly that were a part of His patterns or rhythms.
Prayer is a pattern or rhythm and we are even told in I Thessalonians that this should be a part of our life too! Jesus prays alone, with His disciples, kings of the past pray throughout Scripture, and the apostles of the NT pray too.
We see Jesus fasting for 40 days, Ezra fasting, Daniel, the Pharisees, and Paul. There are plenty of examples because that was a natural expected rhythm of Jewish life.
Solitude is also a rhythm of Jesus’ life. A number of times He withdrew to a quiet place.
Service and humility are expectations that we see in Scripture in Matthew 20 and Philippians 2.
Confession is another one that we see from David in Psalms, or read about in I John and in James.
Worship is all over and one of my favorites in is Psalm 103.
There’s even talk about a time to work and a time to rest when Jesus teaches about the Sabbath.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list of rhythms given to us through Scripture, or even a complete list of references from Scripture, it does start to give us an idea of some patterns, some stability, some balance into what a life with God looks like.
Many of us are familiar with the rollercoaster image of someone's spiritual walk. Many Christians talk about having mountain-top experiences usually when he or she is on a service or mission trip. Then we also talk about the valleys, times we can’t seem to bring ourselves to pray, to read Scripture in our normal disciplined manner, or maybe we just don’t feel God. Many, if not all of us, can relate to this kind of journey, this kind of pattern with the Lord. Scripture shows us that while there is a time for everything and those times are normal, there are other rhythms and patterns that we can incorporate into our lives that can counter those and bring to us balance, stability, and order.
I want to us remember the comforting and difficult words of Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has made everything appropriate for its time.” For some of us remembering these words will give us freedom to live in the healing time, to live in the build up time, the laughing or mourning time, or the embracing time. For others of us remembering these words today means that we have to move on and the Lord may be calling us to a time of work, to a time of discipline, a time of recognizing the rhythms of our spirit and the Spirit of God and taking action to make them line up.
Think about the God of order, of balance, of stability, of rhythms. What are the patterns and rhythms that you have created for yourself and what are the patterns and rhythms that God is beckoning you to jive with?
Try writing down the rhythms and patterns that you see in your daily life. Maybe write down the balance you desire and the areas that you see you have no pattern or rhythm. Then take time to pray and listen to the Lord. Breathe with Him and look for His beats, then write down what rhythms of His He is asking you to make a part of your day. Maybe He is asking you to create more balance between work and rest, rest and prayer, fasting and indulging, or confession in solitude.
When you take time to pray, reflect, and write remember there is a time for everything. We don’t have to feel guilty, but He does desire certain rhythms to be in us. We are invited to breathe with the Creator and live with His balance! Reflect, stop and listen, be still and silent, and focus on His rhythms He’s written for your life.