Even In The Burdens Of Life, God Has Given Us The Gift Of Beauty And Eternity!

This passage today is part of the very famous opening to chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes that begins: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” It is a powerful reflection on the difference between human things and human wisdom and the wisdom and the things of God. It juxtaposes the “real world” of our daily lives, with the transcendent ways of God.

Yes, there is, “a time to be born and a time to die…a time to weep and a time to laugh….a time for war and a time for peace.” We know these contrasting emotions and realities only too well. These things are experienced within the context of our very human lives. They are moral and existential realities. The existential realities of birth and death are what they are. But planting and uprooting, killing, and healing, tearing down and building…all the other things mentioned in verses 2-8 are things that pertain to human decisions and actions. These belong to us.

But the writer of Ecclesiastes gets us to reflect more deeply about them as well. He asks us to think about what we gain from all of this. He has known the burdens of life, just as we have. He recognizes that God, “has made everything beautiful,” and that, “he has set eternity in our hearts.” Yes, God has made all things beautiful. He is the source and the goal of all that is beautiful. This is so, because Beauty is his nature. When we recognize the beauty that is natural to all things he has made, we are overwhelmed and humbled.

All of us have been moved by the beauty of, say, a particularly colorful sunset. It is not that sunsets like that have never happened before, rather, in that moment of unspeakable beauty, our hearts were suddenly opened up to the transcendent by a free gift of grace. We are often rendered speechless in those moments. Our cameras do not capture the depths of the beauty we saw. We cannot describe its beauty sufficiently to another, because our experience of it was so deeply private and profoundly personal. It was a God-moment, something that God shared with us intimately. It was a hint of God’s beauty made present before us. This was possible because God, “has set eternity in our hearts.” Thanks be to God! And yet, because it is of God, even though he has set eternity in our hearts, we still cannot, “fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” We are not “large” enough yet. Our eternal souls are as yet confined by our finite bodies. But they are eternal and, when the “time for everything” comes, God will make all things known to us. Praise be to God!

Lord, you have made us to come to know you through all things beautiful in creation. Help us to open our minds and our hearts to love and to serve you in beauty. As the great Augustine of Hippo came to know, “Our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” You are our source and our goal. Increase our faith, our hope, and our love for you in all things, and in every person. Bring us home to you. We pray, as always, in the power of your name, Jesus. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.