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Dooley Noted: Learning from spring

The arrival of spring each year reminds of the beautiful rhythm God has woven into life. Often seen as an antidote to the barrenness of winter, new life and beauty characterize this season of renewal. As the trees awaken from their sleep and the flowers bloom around us, God’s meticulous organization of time takes center stage. King Solomon captured our experience with the immortal words, “[God] has made everything appropriate in its time (Ecc. 3:11).”


Apart from God, time is nothing more than random chance that leads either to frustration or jubilation. With the Lord, however, everything in time has its place and purpose. God is not a victim of time to be pitied; He is the Author of time to be praised. The longer I live, the more convinced I become that the secret of life is learning to cooperate with God’s divine purpose for us throughout the varying seasons of life. Every event has its place, and every period has its value (Ecc. 3:1).

With descriptions that inspired the Byrds 1963 hit song, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” history’s wisest man lists fourteen antitheses that prove God’s unique agenda for every season (Ecc. 3:2-8). Underneath it all is the reminder that the entirety of our human existence depends upon the Lord. The days of our birth and death are completely out of our hands (Ecc. 3:2a). God forms us in the womb (Psalm 139:13), determines the length of our lives (Psalm 13:16), and determines the day we die (Heb. 9:27).

Because there is a time to plant and a time to uproot, we know that God is sovereign over the climate conditions of each season, along with the rules for harvesting they necessitate (Ecc. 3:2b). We are not free to sow and harvest anytime we choose because nature will not cooperate. Similarly, God may plant you in a different place for a season, only to uproot and move you elsewhere later.

A time to kill and a time to heal (Ecc. 3:3a) exposes the painful truth that sometimes life must be taken and other times it can be reclaimed. God entrusts the sword to governmental authorities to punish evildoers (Rom. 13:3-4), even in the form of capital punishment when necessary (Gen. 9:6). Yet, modern medicine, along with our white blood cells, is helping people live longer and longer. Both are proper in their time.

Tearing down and building up (Ecc. 3:3b) are also necessary in order to replace that which is old with what is new. The principle is not only true about buildings, but also our lives. Similarly, the phrases weeping and laughing along with mourning and dancing (Ecc. 3:4) function as a unit to help us grasp the importance of different emotions for different occasions. Weeping and mourning at a funeral is more than respectful; each are the proper thing to do. Likewise, laughing and dancing are fitting for weddings and celebrations.

Both throwing and gathering stones can also be in order (Ecc. 3:5b). Casting rocks into an enemy’s field rendered it useless during ancient warfare, but collecting the same was necessary to build roads, houses, and walls. Perhaps the phrase is equivalent to the time for embracing and the time for shunning (Ecc. 3:5b). Though it can be painful, we must learn to hold sound doctrine closely while also rejecting what is false. Scripture tells us to avoid those who sow division (Rom. 16:17-18) even as we greet and welcome those in the body of Christ (1 Thess. 5:26).

If you’ve ever lost something valuable, you understand the need to search and to give up as lost (Ecc. 3:6a). Moreover, the time for keeping and for throwing away demands equal discernment (Ecc. 3:6b). Ironically, enjoying what we have to the fullest often requires getting rid of other items. Decluttering your closet frees you to appreciate what remains.

The need for tearing apart and sewing together (Ecc. 3:7a) pictures both the expression of grief and the end of mourning. Sometimes it is right move on and sever ties, but other times we should forgive and reconcile. The time for speaking and for being silent (Ecc. 3:7b) dovetail this concept. Remaining silent is often a symptom of anguish and regret while the willingness to speak is a telltale sign that lament has ended. More broadly, we would all do well to speak less in certain situations, but we also feel the burden to speak up when a sound word is needed.

Contrary to the relativism of modernity, there is also a time to love and a time to hate (Ecc. 3:8a). On the one hand, we are to love God and our neighbors (Matt. 22:37-40). Scripture even instructs us to love our enemies (Matt. 5:43-47). Yet, the Bible is equally clear that we should hate evil (Psalm 97:10) and the damage it does. The contemporary notion that we must affirm sinful lifestyles in order to love people is patently false. Amazingly, the Lord Himself hates numerous abominations that many commonly accept (Prov. 6:16-19).

Interestingly, Peter Seeger altered Solomon’s final line when writing “Turn, Turn, Turn,” to reflect views consistent with the antiwar movement of the 1960s. Though peace is always more appealing, in a fallen world there is also a time for war (Ecc. 3:8b). Far too many who enjoy the freedoms of our country forget or deny altogether that countless men and women have bled and died to birth, protect, and prolong our freedoms on the soils of foreign battlefields.

These observances compel us to cooperate with the appropriateness of every hour. Doing the right thing at the wrong time can be just as damaging as doing the wrong thing. An appropriate feeling at the wrong time is distracting. An appropriate word at the wrong time is disrespectful.  An appropriate decision at the wrong time is dangerous. An appropriate action at the wrong time is devastating. But when we understand that God has an appropriate time for everything that we can do the right thing at the right time. 

Dr Adam B. Dooley is pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, TN, and author of Hope When Life Unravels. Contact him at adooley@ebcjackson.org. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBDooley.

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