A Time for Everything
[Originally published in the Monroe News on August 28, 2020]
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably struggled with emotions and how to digest the events of the past 5 months. No doubt we’ve felt stress and emotions of sadness and sorrow. Yet I have had no shortage of days and moments where I also felt joy and happiness and love because of what was near me in my life. In many of those joyful moments and days I have to confess, there was a pinch of guilt that came with it. There was this little voice somewhere near my conscience that was saying “how can you laugh and be happy when people are suffering”. Have you had this experience? Do you struggle with it too?
During our weeks in the stay-at-home order in April and May my family was for the most part enjoying ourselves. We had much more time together. We were absent many of the distractions that would have otherwise been a part of our daily lives. I didn’t have meetings to attend. The kids didn’t have after-school functions. Our calendar had been emptied out. So what did we do? We found ways to make the most of the situation. We spent time together. When the weather allowed, we took walks in the neighborhood and even partook of a few trails at our amazing state parks. Yet there were times when I felt awkward sharing this with others. Can I talk about the joys my family feels when others are hurting? How do we reconcile this? And don’t get me wrong, we’ve had our fair share of sorrowful moments too. We’ve lost several friends and loved ones during this time. The kids have missed their friends and their time in school. I’ve felt the challenges of ministry and not being able to see members in hospitals and nursing homes due to restrictions.
It was wise King Solomon who wrote the words in the book of Ecclesiastes who has the wisdom to shine upon this conundrum. The first eight verses of Ecclesiastes chapter 3 are Solomon’s way of laying out for us how to handle all the various seasons of life. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…” is how he begins it. Perhaps Ecclesiastes 3:4 speaks most closely upon our present situation: “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”
Life is a balancing act. Life is a struggle for harmony. There are indeed times to weep and to mourn and to deal with sorrow and heavy hearts. Yet those same times may also find themselves rimmed with happiness and joy knocking at the door and filling the same moment. I look back at our months at home and I see that we were probably doing precisely what our family needed to do in that time. How better to help our kids and our family handle the stresses of the changes and the unknown than to embrace the good that we could. To balance the bad news coming in from all parts of our nation and our world we needed to find smiles and laughs.
Now understand I never want us to lose our focus on compassion and empathy for anyone in their moment of suffering. Where we can be that loving hand or that embracing presence to help a neighbor in need we should be. We have countless open doors in front of us where we can take that step out and make a difference for someone in great need. We never want to be calloused or cold-hearted to the plights of others. Yet, as Solomon wisely tells us, there is also a balance that is needed in our lives. Not only is it possible for us to become oblivious to the plights of others, we can also become overwhelmed and too engrossed in the suffering of the world. Watching a 24-7 news cycle and all the tragedies of the world might be a surefire recipe for a heavy heart and more burdens than we can bear. We need to find that balance between caring for others and caring for ourselves.
I find that balance and harmony in life comes most readily in my faith-filled relationship with Jesus Christ. He is the one who invites us to bring our burdens and cares to Him because He is the one who can bear them and will bear them. He is our comfort in sorrow and He is our joy and hope in the promise of the resurrection to come.
I believe that God is the God of life and that whatever may come before us, we need to continue living out our lives so long as we have today and tomorrow before us. While I do go through each day with all the reasonable precautions asked of me (washing hands, wearing masks where appropriate and the like), I also continue living in every way I can. I go out for runs and walks and enjoy the fresh air. I call on neighbors in their times of need. I enjoy good conversation with friends in the neighborhood. I worship in God’s house and receive His gifts. I hope you too can continue on in your life’s routine and find that balance that ultimately comes from our Lord. Be safe and be well.
To God be the glory.
Mark Witte is the pastor at Grace Lutheran Church. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org