“There is a time for everything… a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 5)
Ecclesiastes is a fascinating book. It examines what life is like ‘under the sun’, that is in purely human terms without reference to God. It shows how life functions on a daily basis and its observations are designed to draw us to God who is the source of meaning and purpose in this world.
One of the observations that the writer of Ecclesiastes (probably Solomon, but simply referred to as ‘the Teacher’) makes in chapter three is that “there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
We know this to be true, don’t we? This observation of human life rings true from our own experience. There are times for some things, and other times for the opposite. There are times of mourning in life, as verse 4 affirms, and there are times of rejoicing and dancing. There are times to be silent and times to speak up. Life contains parts that are pleasant and parts that are not. Ecclesiastes notes that we should not have the wrong impression when times are good, that we are immune from hardship or suffering. Equally, we should not lose hope when times are tough, because these things only last for a season.
This seems to me to be especially relevant for our current circumstances. We are in a difficult period of pandemic, lockdown and fear. Those things are real and not to be trivialised. Yet this will only be for a season. Better things are ahead of us.
In particular, verse 5 of Ecclesiastes chapter 3 says that there is “a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing”. That certainly connects with our present experience. We are in a time where we are being asked to ‘refrain from embracing.’ Some people will find this much harder than others, but all of us will be affected since we are made for connection and human contact.
Hard though this time of refraining may be, it will not last. We don’t know how long we will have to stop embracing others, but it will only be for a season. The time for embracing will come around once again. We need not lost hope and we should not despair. It will be a time to embrace one again soon enough.