If there is one Bible verse that has defined my life, it is Ecclesiastes 3:1: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (NRSV). As the first month of 2021 draws to a close, I think it important to reflect upon this verse.
We knew things would not be easy, and yet still there was a sense of hope going into a new year–surely 2021 could not be as eventful and depressing as 2020. While it remains to be seen how different the year as a whole will be, the first month of 2021 perhaps had a bit more in the way of history packed into it than many of us would have liked.
Friends, I get it–reasons for despair, fear, grief and rage abound. Vaccine rollouts have been poorly performed; the rich and powerful are demonstrating their usual selfish tendencies to the detriment of us all; misinformation and disinformation runs rampant and polarization increases; variants of the virus continue to proliferate and the dark time of year in the Northern Hemisphere continues to put a drain on mental health. Pandemic fatigue combined with the usual winter blues has many on a very short fuse, and we’re all tired, grumpy, and just want this whole struggle to be OVER.
In light of all of this it can be difficult to hold onto hope. We want this over now not at some distant time in the future. Surely, it ‘can’t be that hard, surely it can’t be too much to ask?
I am on the autism spectrum–one of the many impacts this has had on my life is that the “purposes” and “matters under heaven” have come at different times and in different seasons than many others. Some matters have come into their times earlier than the average population; others have come much later; and still others are yet to come. Take romantic relationships==I’m 29 years old and turn 30 later this year, but I have only been on a handful of dates in my life, and I have never had physical intimacy with a partner, never even shared a kiss. I am constantly challenged to trust that since I desire a fulfilling romantic relationship, that such a relationship will eventually be formed in some future time and season. Part of that trust is based on statistical likelihoods, part is based on my knowledge of myself and others, and part is a constant choice to hope and to trust in the Spirit’s strength and guidance.
Similarly, as the pandemic weighs on, I have to trust that it will end in some future time and season. Part of that is based on the history of pandemics, part is based on what we know about this particular pandemic, part is based on the knowledge of the many good and talented people working to bring this era to a close, and part is based on a constant choice to hope and to trust in the Spirit’s movement toward justice.
Discerning the correct time and season for any particular matter takes practice and experience, and choosing hope and trust is a muscle that must be flexed. Yet I know of no other way to live, and over the course of my life I have seen the truth of everything having its season, and every matter having its time.
Lament is important, and recognizing our desire for more better days, sharing our pain and our struggles is essential–yet we must also choose hope, choose trust, and choose love as these will be what enable us to survive the pain and despair.
Godspeed the end of this pandemic. Amen.