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If you type the words “beautiful in its time” into your web browser and click on images your screen will fill up with flowers, butterflies and sunsets – all with those famous words from Ecclesiastes plastered over top of them in flowing script. What you won’t see is a mushroom cloud from an atomic bomb and yet the list of “beautiful” things in Ecclesiastes also includes war. You won’t see any blood yet the list speaks about killing. There aren’t any pictures to go with destroy, weep, argue and hate yet those are also words on that list that God has supposedly made “beautiful in its time.”
There is something wrong with this picture.
Kohelet wrote Ecclesiastes to study the things that humans work at under the sun to try and get ahead. In his famous “Time Poem,” Kohelet tells us there is a season for every human activity under heaven, even the evil ones. This is reality in a world that God has twisted, a world full of thorns and thistles, pain and suffering. But we prefer butterflies and rainbows so we remove “beautiful in its time” from its context and use the words to support an artificial world-view. Then we wonder why the claims on how the world works for people of “faith” are distasteful – even offensive, to people who see life as it really is.
But life is not completely out of focus.
There are many good things on Kohelet’s list: birth, laughing, embracing, dancing and loving. The world may have been twisted by God but the goodness of creation still flows around us as constant as a river. There are many beautiful things in life and Kohelet celebrates this fact – “No one can straighten what God has twisted so when times are good, be happy and when times are bad, considered that God has created both to insure that a person will never know what their future holds.” Kohelet tells us throughout the book of Ecclesiastes that we need to focus on the joys that each new day brings our way. The flowers and sunsets can still be enjoyed even when there are storm clouds on the horizon. At the end of his book he writes, “Life is sweet and it is a pleasure to see the light of day, no matter how many days a person may live each one should be fully enjoyed, for darker days, days of futility, will come.”
This is the paradox of living in a broken world. At times it is in vivid color but at others it is faded, torn and washed out. Making peace with that reality is a necessary part of being human.
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