1 There’s a season for everything
and a time for every matter under the heavens:
2 a time for giving birth and a time for dying,
a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted,
3 a time for killing and a time for healing,
a time for tearing down and a time for building up,
4 a time for crying and a time for laughing,
a time for mourning and a time for dancing,
5 a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,
a time for embracing and a time for avoiding embraces,
6 a time for searching and a time for losing,
a time for keeping and a time for throwing away,
7 a time for tearing and a time for repairing,
a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking,
8 a time for loving and a time for hating,
a time for war and a time for peace.
9 What do workers gain from all their hard work? 10 I have observed the task that God has given human beings. 11 God has made everything fitting in its time, but has also placed eternity in their hearts, without enabling them to discover what God has done from beginning to end.
We may most often hear this passage from the wisdom book of Ecclesiastes at funerals. Yet these verses actually reflected, not just on life’s end, but on the full range of “seasons” our lives go through. Scholar John Goldingay said the word “eternity” “suggests that God has put into our minds a yearning to understand the big picture about human life and about God’s activity in the world….we know that God knows what the big picture is and that we can trust him for it.” *
Lord Jesus, I know that my life will keep changing and unfolding, and those changes will affect my committed relationships. Thank you for being the unchanging friend who will walk with me through all of life’s seasons. Amen.
* John Goldingay, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs for Everyone. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014, p. 189. ** Ibid.
I’m about to out myself as a total nerd. Something I’ve gotten really into since the pandemic started is tabletop role-playing games. I play these frequently with my friends, and it’s a situation where dice rolls determine everything. You can be good or bad at something, but the random roll of a dice is the biggest determining factor on whether you succeed or not. We know that, on a six-sided die, each number has a 16.6% chance of rolling. So if a 1 rolls three times in a row, that can be really frustrating to us. A 1 just rolled three times in a row, surely the next roll will be a 6 to balance things out, right? Players tend to blame the dice when things like that happen, and some of us even put them in dice jail. Sometimes that’s just a metaphor for setting them aside, but some players go as far as to buy actual dice jails (that’s a real thing, check Amazon) to put the “bad dice” in until they learn to behave and obey the laws of statistics.
Those of us familiar with statistics know that the 16.6% chance will work itself out on a long enough timeline. Given an infinite number of dice rolls, every number will roll 16.6% of the time. But given much smaller sample sizes, there are no guarantees, and improbable but very possible roll combinations can really annoy those of us who expect a fair distribution of numbers.
We, as humans, have this innate sense of fairness, much like we expect die rolls to be distributed equally. We know what’s good and we know what’s bad, and we expect fairness from God and the world at large. But sometimes that doesn’t happen. Sometimes, I roll a bunch of ones in a row, and I look over and see someone else rolling a bunch of sixes in a row. “It’s not fair!” I think. “God, throw these dice in the dice jail, I want to re-roll.”
It’s so easy to forget that some people have been struggling far longer than any of our struggles have been going on. Some people are treated differently every day because of the color of their skin. Some people are born into poverty and never have the opportunity to escape it. I myself was born with a disability in the form of a serious mental illness, something other people think is dangerous, and something that limits what I can do.
I look around too and see that some people seem to have been rolling high numbers for their entire lives. Some people grow up with both parents in the home while others don’t. Some people are born into fairly wealthy families that pay for college while others could never afford higher education. Some people never experience a truly traumatic event in their lives while others face them constantly. Where’s the fairness in that?
I wish I could tell you to just hang in there and things will get better, but I know from my own experiences that that’s not necessarily true. Some people will get disproportionately more good or bad things in their life with no real balance. Life is not as fair as a set of dice rolled out to infinity. The answer, instead, is twofold. First, check your privilege. Everyone undoubtedly has things that they’re struggling with, but there are things you’ve never struggled with that many others do. Simply being aware of that can make you much more aware of what to do in the next part. Second, it is up to us to balance the dice. If two men pray for bread, and God gives one man two loaves and the other none, has he answered their prayer? Justice, support, love, community, and acceptance are all things we need to readily give to those who haven’t rolled well in those areas. Yes, God can work in miraculous ways, but it’s far more common for him to work through the people willing to do the work.
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