In Ecclesiastes 3:11, what does it mean that 'He has made everything beautiful in its time'?
The impact of timing on our lives is indisputable. Timing—and trying to manage our expectations around it—easily becomes an overwhelming topic. Generally, we consider that there are things that happen in good time, or on time (getting that promotion when you hoped you would); and there are also things that happen in bad time, too late or too early (multiple tragedies strike back-to-back or a great opportunity arrives before we are mature enough to seize it). We usually think that good timing can lead to success while bad timing can lead to failure. In Ecclesiastes 3:11 King Solomon writes of God that, "He has made everything beautiful in its time." This may seem hard to believe. Can God really make everything beautiful?
God is omniscient, all knowing, and omnipresent, everywhere at once. Therefore, He exists outside of time. His timing is perfect, for He sees the whole scope of time and place at once.
Ecclesiastes 3 begins with a well-known reflection on time: "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace" (Ecclesiastes 3:1–8).
To have a healthier mindset related to time, it is helpful to think of seasons. To everything there is a season. Some seasons look ugly, but they are followed by beauty, and it is during the mystery of the in-between that they become beautiful.
Think of the seasons of the year. In the winter, plants lie dormant. There are no leaves on the trees, the daffodil and tulip flowers are no more than a bulb planted below the frozen surface of the ground. Winter is not a beautiful season. However, there is still growth happening, and it is once we get to spring that we see the signs of life returning. The trees grow new leaves. Flowers sprout out of the cold dirt. In summer, everything is beautiful and in bloom. Fruit trees and vegetable vines are ripening for the harvest. Then, with fall, we reap the fruits of a splendid summer. The fall colors are a final reminder of the beauty that was, and we carry all of this with us into the next winter where we might otherwise be tempted to forget that there is beauty coming again. And so the cycle continues.
In a similar way, we go through different seasons in our lives. There are times when everything is going smoothly, and we experience one good thing after another. Then, we go through minor disappointments and major tragedies, and sometimes we begin to feel like there is nothing good left for us. However, we have this knowledge that God will make everything beautiful in its time.
When things we loved or that served us well are stripped away, we must believe that God has a way to make beauty out of them: "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer" (Romans 12:12; see also Romans 15:13). God's plans for us are good: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified" (Romans 8:28–30).
God's timing may frustrate or confuse us, but that doesn't make it wrong. He always does things at the right time. God sent Jesus to earth at the time He had appointed (Galatians 4:4). Jesus said, "the time is fulfilled," when He began his ministry (Mark 1:15). We can cling to the truth that God makes "everything beautiful in its time" (Ecclesiastes 3:8; see also Genesis 21:2; Isaiah 46:10; 60:22; Habakkuk 2:3; Matthew 24:36; 26:18; John 7:6; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Ephesians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:1–11; 1 Peter 5:6–7; 2 Peter 3:8–13; Revelation 1:1).
In Jesus Christ, we have been "born again to a living hope" (1 Peter 1:3). We have the hope of a beautiful new heaven and earth, the ultimate beautification of all that is flawed, a place where every tear will be wiped away from our eyes (see Revelation 21:1–27, 2 Peter 3:13, Isaiah 65:17). We can rest peacefully in the confident hope that God will make everything beautiful in its time.
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