This may be one of the most meaningful song lyrics to me personally. It comes from Stevie Nick’s Landslide, one of my favorite songs. The way that she sings her “I don’t know” afterwards conveys the same wondering in my own heart sometimes.
Seasons change, and I do seem to hit some landslides in each one. Solomon contemplates a similar theme in Ecclesiastes. I’ve been reading Ecc. 3:9-15 over and over this week: “What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away. This excerpt follows the beautiful poem that has even made it to the pop charts, the idea being that “For everything there is a season” (Ecc. 3:1).
When I read Ecclesiastes, I hear the familiar groaning of the Christian living in the light of the gospel. The observations that are made and the questions that are asked are similar to my own sometimes. And the excerpt above gives me the peace that its preceding poem ends with, a peace that even extends way beyond the season of war in which Pete Seeger was immersed when he put it to music.
Sometimes my laboring seems utterly futile. My best attempts in all my roles can just leave me disappointed. And I too wonder, “What gain has the worker from his toil?” I buy groceries, only to hear my kids tell me what I should have gotten instead. I clean the house, only for another round of mess to invade. I try to build relationships, but still run into conflict. And of course the writing comes with its blessings and burdens. “I have seen the business that God has given the children of man to be busy with.” It can be frustrating.
At times I wonder if there is any lasting gain. Other times I wonder if I am even going to keep my sanity through a particular season in my life, or is it going to completely suck the soul out of me? And this is the world we live in that has been subjected to the curse. As much as it may seem sometimes, it isn’t completely random. Seasons are appointed. And we see in these verses that they are appointed by a sovereign, good God. “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
How can this be? Sure, there is abounding beauty in my life, but everything? What about suffering, adversity, and dirty dishes? The Scripture goes on to explain, “Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” God’s work is eternal. And while I am living through the seasons of my life, at this very moment typing at 12:04 PM on a Friday afternoon, I work in my vocations with a confession of hope.
God’s providence is a beautiful thing that we just don’t understand in our own time. But we hold fast to the hope we have in Christ, that he is using every single moment, every single circumstance, for his glory and our good. He who promised is faithful and we look forward to the age to come when we will live free from the curse, eternally with Jesus. When I lay hold of this truth, I know there is no futility with God. And so, as these verses go on to teach, we can take pleasure in our toil while doing good in each season of life.
This is God’s gift to us. We do this by faith, which is also God’s gift. We live by faith in the time God gives us. And whatever God does endures forever. There’s a season that I look forward to living in: eternity. And since eternity is in my heart and I know that I am blessed to live it with my Creator and Lord, I have the confidence of knowing that my work is not in vain. There is eternal value to our laboring through each season because God’s work is eternal.
When I get to the point of despair asking, “Can I handle the seasons of my life?” I, like Pete Seeger suggested, turn. I turn to Christ. Nothing can be added or taken away from the work of God, and I am in awe. And I am reminded that in his wisdom, goodness, and sovereignty, these seasons are not futile. He is producing lasting fruit for his kingdom. Sure, there are some landslides. But they do not end God’s people. They remind me that no, I can’t handle the seasons of my life on my own. But “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thess. 5:24). He who “is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” is interceding on my behalf and will see me through the race. And he is making even me beautiful in his time.
*Originally published on August 22, 2014.