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OF TIME AND ETERNITY

God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.
Ecclesiastes 3:11-14

Are you getting used to writing the year 2020? Are you wondering where 2019 went so fast? Where does the time go? Einstein was surely right in saying time is relative. I know time goes a lot faster for me than my grandkids. Time is a quirky thing. St. Augustine said he knew what time was until someone asked him to explain it. (Confessions, Book xi) And we all relate to time differently. Musicians mark time. Referees call time. Prisoners serve time. Historians record time. Statisticians record time. Some people waste time. Some people fear time. 

But another passing of Old Father Time and the birth of Baby New Year call for paying attention. The Genesis creation story says that God created the sun and moon “for signs and for seasons and for days and years” (Genesis 1:14). God intends a sunrise and sunset, as well as every new year, to call us to snap to attention. The psalmist even prays for God to “teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart” (Psalm 90:12). So, if you want a crash course in wisdom, then stop and pay attention to another year flying by. Soon you will be writing 2021, the Lord willing!

How wonderful and refreshing to read Solomon’s words in today’s scripture assuring us “God has made everything beautiful in its time.” The “time” Solomon has in mind is all the “time” he wrote about earlier: “a time to be born, and a time to die…a time to weep, and a time to laugh…a time to mourn, and a time to dance”. That means God, the Master-Artist, makes all things beautiful in their time. He works all things together for His good and great purpose for us (Romans 8:28). For God, there is a right and beautiful time for everything God does, for every purpose under His heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1). 

We are creatures made in God’s image, designed for eternity, yet embedded in time. That means we cannot “fathom what God has done from beginning to end”; we cannot now see God’s big picture and how he really does make everything beautiful in its time. 

So, as we wait for the consummation of all things, what does God want us to do? Solomon is quick to answer: “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.” Solomon’s counsel for the meantime is that people “eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil – this is the gift of God.” So, enjoy 2020! Find satisfaction! God has everything in hand!

The Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky knew profound suffering and evil and yet was borne up by Christian hope. He wrote in The Brothers Karamazov:

“I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage…that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, for all the blood that they’ve shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened.”

(The Brothers Karamazov)

Oxford scholar and popular writer C. S. Lewis writes similarly:

“You cannot in your present state understand eternity…That is what mortals cannot understand. They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it’, not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”

(The Great Divorce)

What we know now by faith, our eyes will see in eternity. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

A Fellow Traveler,
Tim

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