Solomon has thus far spent time discussing the vanity of wisdom, pleasure, and work. These things can promise temporary happiness and moments of satisfaction, but it is fleeting and frustrating. In chapter 3, Solomon focuses on the first major method of living a life of relevance and meaning. Solomon, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, calls us to embrace God’s appointed seasons of life. In verse 1 we read, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”
Embrace the Contrasts of Life
In verses 2-8, Solomon expounds on verse 1 by showing how life is full of contrasts and these contrasts comprise our lives on earth. No one is immune from the contrasts of life. There is a time to be born and a time to die. A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to keep silent and a time to speak. John Maxwell wrote: “You don’t control the timing of most events; the best you can do is recognize the timing.”
Some commentators believe that this section speaks of fatalism. Fatalism is the belief that all events are predetermined and therefore inevitable. It doesn’t matter what you do or do not do, whatever is going to happen will happen. It was notably summarized in the song by Doris Day “Que Sera, Sera”. She sang: “Que sera, sera Whatever will be, will be The future’s not ours to see Que sera, sera What will be, will be.” Solomon is not teaching fatalism as if we are just to accept whatever random chance determines. Solomon is teaching that no one is immune from the seasons of life and that each season is used by God to mature His children. It is a call for us to seek God who has appointed our times. We must seek Him and His wisdom to successfully navigate God’s appointed seasons of life.
Trust in God’s Gracious Providence
After calling us to embrace God’s appointed seasons of life, Solomon speaks (vs 9-15) of God’s gracious providence over all of life. When we speak of providence, we are talking about God’s good governance over the entire universe. RC Sproul said of God’s providence, “One way in which the secular mindset has made inroads into the Christian community is through the worldview that assumes that everything happens according to fixed natural causes, and God, if He is actually there, is above and beyond it all. He is just a spectator in heaven looking down, perhaps cheering us on but exercising no immediate control over what happens on earth.” He goes on to say, “Historically, however, Christians have had an acute sense that this is our Father’s world and that the affairs of men and nations, in the final analysis, are in His hands.”
Providence is mentioned in Ecclesiastes 3:11. Solomon writes about God: “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Therefore, life is not subject to random chance, but has purpose and meaning. Everything is under the authority, care, and concern of God. Paul wrote in Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” All things work together for good because God causes it to do so. Everything is beautiful in its time because it is according to God’s appointed time. This does not guarantee that we’ll understand it or enjoy it, but we receive it in faith.
Expect God’s Impending Judgment
God is not only governing His creation, but He is also holding all creation accountable for their actions. In verses 16-22, Solomon moves from God’s gracious providence to God’s impending judgment. He wrote: “Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness.” God will permit wickedness to exist in the world and even persist at times, but that does not mean that He approves of it. Solomon continues: “I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.” Just like the beasts, the body returns to dust. He said, “All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust.” Therefore “nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities for that is his lot. For who will bring him to see what will occur after him?”
Embrace God’s appointed seasons of life, trust in God’s providence, and expect God’s judgment. You will find yourself in different seasons of life because time marches on and waits for nobody. Each season is something to dread but an opportunity to draw closer to God and mature in faith. God is the one who determines which season we are in and how long we will remain there.
We will all experience times of prosperity and adversity. Times of plenty and prosperity remind us that God delights in giving us good gifts. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Ps 50:10). Embrace it, enjoy God’s blessings and prepare for times of scarcity. Times of scarcity and hardship remind us that God (and not His good gifts) are all we need. Embrace it, focus on what is most important, and prepare for times of plenty. You may not know why things happen, but the Christian can rest assured that God knows, and it is all part of His glorious plan. Rather than saying, “Que sera, sera Whatever will be will be”; say “Glory to God, who has made everything beautiful in its time!”