“To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
If there is one thing certain about life, it is change. Take a good look at how things are in your life right now, because they won’t be like that for long. Time passes and people move away or pass away. Careers necessitate a change of location and old friends give way to new acquaintances, despite the best intentions to stay in touch. Some changes are easy and even exciting, while others, though inevitable, rip your heart out.
I remember sitting with a couple after a service in our church in New England many years ago. Though originally from the Ivory Coast in Africa, He and his wife had come to us from Belgium where he had gotten his doctorate. He was a research scientist at the University of Vermont, and both he and his wife were beloved members of our church family. When an opportunity came for him to take a position at a University in Michigan, they both sat with me in the front row while he told me with tears that when their time in Michigan was over they would come back. I smiled and told him that would be great, but in my heart I knew it would not happen. Life just isn’t like that. It is not static, like a photo. It is more like a river that is fluid, the eddies and currents of which part the best of friends as time and purpose move us in different directions.
They key to life is certainly not in avoiding change. Change is inevitable. In fact, the very nature of this life is transient. We will only be here for a relatively short time. The key to life, rather than avoiding change, is to understand one’s purpose, for God has a purpose for each and every one of us, and the changing seasons of life are the varied paths we travel in the pursuit and fulfilling of that purpose. The plan of God has literally moved me from one end of the country to another, and even when some of those moves were not as intentional and God-directed as they should have been, God’s grace and submission to His process have always brought me to a place where I could reconnect with His plan for my life. For some, this is not the case, and one may stay in the same town, or even the same house, all their life long and live a very meaningful and significant life. However, even the most stay-at-home are not immune to change, for it finds us all, wherever we are and wherever we go.
This is why it is always good to appreciate the present season in which we find ourselves. There are relationships we could be enjoying now, rather than always looking around the corner to the next thing coming our way. The future will happen soon enough, but there are things to enjoy in this season which may never come back around in this life. Those of us who have had the opportunity to gain a little perspective remember the years when we were always waiting to be older so we could drive, date, graduate, go to college, or whatever that next exciting thing was that was sure to bring us the fulfillment for which we longed. After arriving at each destination, it seemed the illusive mirage evaporated, leaving us wondering if what we were looking for wasn’t perhaps around the next corner. If we could have those years back, knowing what we know now, we wouldn’t be in such a hurry. We know now that we simply didn’t realize just how good we had it!
Every grandparent tells their children to enjoy their little ones because it won’t be long before they are grown and out of the house, and sure enough, time does pass and we’re left with the choices we made to either invest in those precious relationships or to neglect them. Indeed, each season, and the choices we make in them, add to the photo album of experiences we collect in this life’s journey. Like many family albums in homes today, some are filled with fond memories while others would be better forgotten.
The “Preacher” of Ecclesiastes, said that there is “a time for every purpose under heaven.” That means that the time in which we’re living right now has a purpose; maybe even several. Our responsibility is to discern what those purposes are and fulfill them. So don’t worry about the future. It will come, worry or not, but the people and opportunities you have now may not be present in the next season of your life.
Also, we must learn to let go of regret. Many a good present has been wasted looking back at a less than perfect past. Instead, we must focus our efforts on making the most out of the time we have now. So, invest in your loved ones and friends. Live life well and to the fullest. Work hard but learn to leave the job behind you at the end of the day, and make room for the people in your life. After all, no one on their death bed wishes they had had another hour to spend at the office.
Add value to others and you will never be wanting for friends. Invest in your children and they will remain close even if they live far away. Soon this life will be over, and then you will see that it was how you chose to a live each and every today that determined the quality of the life God gave you. There is no way to avoid the pangs that change brings when they separate us from the people and places we love, but knowing that we lived each season well will help us to move confidently into the next stage of the journey, trusting that God is working out His purpose for our lives. As Paul said, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). God has called you to His purpose. If you love Him and surrender to that call, He will make every changing season to become one more layer in the beautiful pattern He is weaving in the tapestry of your life.