November 18 I Sunday
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” —Ecclesiastes 3:1
Some people put a lot of stock into the power of positive thinking. The idea behind this lifestyle is to affirm and dwell on only good things. Self-help author Remez Sasson summarizes the philosophy: “Think positive and expect favorable results and situations, even if your current circumstances are not as you wish them to be. In time, your mental attitude will affect your external life and circumstances, and change them accordingly.” By affirming and expecting only good, Sasson says the result will be increased personal success, confidence and inner strength.
There is value to maintaining a positive attitude, but we must be wary of the pseudo-Christian idea that what we verbalize and have faith for is what we will receive. Some create in themselves an expectancy that God exists to make their lives easy, healthy and prosperous if they believe in Him, but this is not the promise of Scripture. God does not promise us a life six inches off the ground but His presence in a life that involves pain as well as joy.
In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, Solomon describes life with 14 sets of contrasting statements. Some of them are fairly obvious: there is a time to be born and a time to die, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to be silent and a time to speak. But others are of a more difficult nature: a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to love and a time to hate. We like to embrace the positives of life while rejecting the negatives, but it is actually in times of pain, sorrow and weakness that we discover Christ is our comfort, joy and strength. Our obedience to Him, dependence on Him and love for Him are stimulated again and again through trouble, not ease.
Hard times are like goads or nails, difficult and sometimes painful, but they realign us with God. Goads are the pointed sticks used to drive oxen, which represents how God sometimes uses challenges in our lives to direct us. Nails solidly hammered into things hold them together, just as difficulties often drive us to cling closer to Christ. We must not think of hardships as something to escape or wish away with positive thinking, but as tools God often uses to mold, guide and build us up. The negative and the positive, the bright times and the dark times are His agents by which He goads and nails us into something we would never be if we just lived life on the easy plain.
Prayer: Gracious God, thank You that though there is a time for both good and bad in life, Your presence in me is my strength in weakness and my security in difficulties.