There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens. A time to be born and a time to die. Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
As a kid living in southern California, I had the opportunity to go to Disneyland a number of times. Before each visit my brother and I would plan out how to strategically use our tickets – yes, back then we had ticket books for rides. That’s where the saying, “It’s an E ticket ride” comes from, meaning the best ones. In the ticket book there’d be loads of A tickets for the kiddie rides and shows. But only a few, valuable E tickets. I imagined how much fun I was going to have spinning around the tea cups and travelling through the Haunted Mansion. But when I got to Disneyland all I could think of was the next ride. And the next. When we would leave, I felt a sense of disappointment. Like I hadn’t really been there at all. So, I looked forward to the day we could go back and begin the process of yearning for something better around the next bend all over again.
Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. Proverb 27:1
That has been a lifelong problem for me – always looking for tomorrow to bring me joy and peace. It’s also brought me a lot of worry. And although God wants us to be good stewards of our life, planning and preparing, He doesn’t want our hearts and minds to be absent from today. Or worse, trapped in the past. During difficult seasons we can so easily project our life to what we hope it to be or catastrophize our life to what we are worried it will be. We often also wish we could just go back to the way things were. Back home, back to a perceived better or safer time.
On my rides home from the Magic Kingdom, I would wish I could go back. Go back and relish each ride, each experience to its fullest. And while I was doing that, I was probably missing out again on what was happening right then and there. I can only imagine Elijah, a quiet, rugged mountain shepherd on day 50 or 100 or even 200 in Cherith Ravine letting his mind wander back home to Gilead. Being just a man, he probably once or twice longed for his old way of life where kings and queens weren’t threatening his life. Where he could pick berries and drink fresh goat milk each day instead of relying on ravens for food. But God needed him right there, right at that time paying attention.
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15
It’s a hard lesson when we are in pain, suffering through bad news, or being persecuted. We are admonished to trust in God for tomorrow and not yearn to go backwards to home. And yet, in the midst of my Cherith I found myself doing just that.
Both my children had returned to their own homes after saying their final goodbyes to their beloved grandmother. My husband too had returned back to a job that needed his presence. That next day, after a particularly hard few moments and, to be honest, watching my brother-in-law’s little family gather closely together, I needed to escape. I felt so alone and incapable of the task of helping shepherd my mother-in-law through her final days. I took my eyes off the Lord and placed them back on myself. A phone call home had me crying out to my husband, “I can’t do this. I’m not strong enough. I want to come home right now.”
I wanted to go back to before the cancer. I wanted to envelope myself in my comfortable routine back home. Fear and loneliness wrapped around me like a heavy blanket. And then I remembered Elijah. I looked toward the majesty of the Colorado Rockies and remembered God can do all things. And He needed me right there, right now. Not longing for home or better times. Not worrying about the future. Instead, paying attention to the beautiful moments and lessons He had placed before me for today.
22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. John 16:22
I still will battle looking for the next “better thing” around the corner. But the time between that search and remembering to enjoy this day has reduced to mere moments as I pull my thoughts back to looking for Jesus right now. There is a time for everything. To prepare and to sow, to cry and to laugh. To keep and throw away. To mourn and to dance. When we step outside God’s timing we find ourselves at odds with His plan. But when we live in His moments, His seasons, we find ourselves in harmony. That is God’s promised peace. And that my friends, is exactly where the joy is.