In His Time


“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every season under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

That there is an appointed time for everything is the fundamental truth discussed in this extended passage (Eccles. 3:1-8). What is appropriate on some occasions is not so at others. The passage presents a series of opposites reflecting the full range of life’s experiences, emotions, and decisions—birth and death, planting and uprooting, weeping and laughing, embracing and refraining from embracing, love and hate, war and peace.

The variation of our experiences through time presents a certain beauty and symmetry of life. But we are also reminded that we are ultimately not in control. We may sometimes even get the idea that we are just slaves of the seasons and times and what they bring to us in life. There is nothing we can do about it.

But we also see evidence of a divine pattern given by God (Eccles. 3:11-15). Rather than a sense of changelessness, there is a greater purpose, a beginning and an end. It is part of God’s plan for us to have some unpleasantness in life to discipline us and teach us some valuable lessons.

Seen from God’s perspective, everything is beautiful in its own time, even what appears to us to be harsh or negative. Each of the various processes of time has its own character. Each is beautiful in its own way. Each contributes to the overall beauty of the whole masterpiece.

God has placed eternity in the hearts of men. Immersed in time, we as human beings made in the image of God long to know something of eternity. We long to see the whole picture, the grand design. Delitzsch summarized the thought well: “God has not only assigned to each individually his appointed place in history… He has also established in man an impulse leading him beyond that which is temporal toward the eternal: it lies in his nature not be contented with the temporal, but to break through the limits which it draws around him to escape from the bondage and the disquietude within which he is held, and amid the ceaseless changes of time to console himself by directing his thoughts to eternity.”

But, of course, we can never see perfectly, as God sees. The purpose of it all is known only to God. We can never quite step back far enough to view it as its Creator does—from beginning to end. But by faith, the believer sees all this as a gift from God, an allotted portion in life.

So, what is good for man? To be joyful and do good (v. 12). To take pleasure in God’s gifts (v. 13). To remember that God is in charge, and fear him (vv. 14-15).

These principles are expressed beautifully in the hymn “In His Time” (D. Ball, 1978):

“In His time, In His time / He makes all things beautiful in His time. / Lord please show me every day / As You're teaching me Your way / That You do just what You say / In Your time.”

Dan Petty