Everything Has Its Time
How have you experienced God in both joy and sorrow?
The Scripture verses read at weddings and funerals are often very different. The story of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana works very well as a couple is celebrating their wedding day, but it would seem an odd choice to mark the end of life. Paul’s message to the Corinthians about the resurrection works perfectly at a funeral, but it wouldn’t be right for a service that is centered on marriage vows.
An exception is the passage from Ecclesiastes which talks about everything having its time. “There’s a season for everything and a time for every matter under the heavens,” says the author of the book: “a time for giving birth and a time for dying” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2). The writer knows that life is not all new beginnings, such as wedding days and childbirth. The life that God has given us also includes endings, such as “a time for uprooting what is planted” (verse 2) and “a time for mourning” (verse 4).
Because of this honest and wise view of human life, Ecclesiastes is appropriate for both weddings and funerals. I have used this passage at weddings and said, “This is ‘a time for loving’ (verse 8). In this season of marriage, you are being challenged to show each other a love that goes far beyond feelings and emotions — a love that is a choice you are challenged to make, day in and day out.”
I have also used Ecclesiastes at funerals. Speaking about a woman who lived almost 90 years, I said, “Nearing the end, she was not afraid of death. As a woman of faith, she knew that in both life and in death, she belonged to God. Her entire life was in line with what the author of Ecclesiastes wrote: 'God has made everything fitting in its time' (verse 11)."
Because everything has its time, we are challenged to experience God in both joy and sorrow. While it is easy to feel uplifted by divine love on a wedding day, God’s care is equally present when friends gather to comfort us at a time of loss. To look for God only in happy times is to miss God’s presence in the full span of life. God is equally present in “a time for crying and a time for laughing, a time for mourning and a time for dancing” (verse 4).
The Brief Statement of Faith of the Presbyterian Church (USA) begins with words that can certainly be embraced by Christians of any denomination, “In life and in death we belong to God.” Yes, we belong to God when we are born, when we are baptized, and when we pass through the many stages of life. But we also belong to God in a time of terminal illness, and on our deathbed. The wisdom of Ecclesiastes is that nothing in life must separate us from God.
Help me to feel your presence, God, every day of my life. Amen.