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“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…”
—Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 (The New Oxford Annotated Bible)
Ecclesiastes describes moving through the seasons of life so succinctly. Throughout life, we will experience different seasons, with their unique expectations, challenges, and rewards. Each of the four seasons – winter, spring, summer, and fall – offers something distinctive for us to enjoy.
In spring, we marvel at the tiny green shoots rising out of a still, cold earth to become wonderful flowers. Leaves appear on trees.
As summer unfolds, flowers are in full bloom and gardens are producing food for our table.
As autumn takes over, the leaves of trees begin to change to beautiful colors of red, yellow, and orange. Eventually those leaves fall to the ground and become compost for another season.
And with winter, mounds of snow form beautiful shapes, covering and hiding what lies below.
Each season has its own revealing features and beauty. Each season has its opportunities and variations.
Just as the world goes through seasons, we also go through seasons – from early childhood to adulthood, to middle age and old age – maneuvering through the challenges of creating, building, and letting go as we transition from one season to another.
It can be difficult to let go of something we are enjoying, like the nice warm days of summer that will be replaced with rain and possible snow.
We don’t want to give up one to gain the other.
We want life – not death.
We want laughter and joy, not weeping and mourning.
Yet both are necessary in order to live life to the fullest.
After the death of my husband, I went from a season of being happily married to a widow struggling to move on. That change of season involved a major unwanted move and the need to begin again – start a new life – a new season.
Whenever you suffer a major loss, you are not only working through grief, but struggling to create a new identity and way forward.
In my book, Learning to Live Again in a New World, I wrote about entering that new season in my life. As I shared my personal story, I also shared my training as a cognitive behavioral therapist that helped me live again. I wrote,
“Learning new skills requires determination, struggle, and hard work. It seems at times that we are pushing and pushing that proverbial stone and it doesn’t move. But then, one morning, we wake up and find ourselves sitting on top of it! We haven’t moved it; we haven’t gone around it; we have climbed to the top and are on our way over and beyond!”
I believe it is only when we go through major struggles that we discover who we are. When we’re mentally, emotionally, and spiritually wounded, we often retreat from the world to find solace and direction. But to continue with life, we cannot stay there; we have to move back into the world.
In our retreat and solitude, however, we can arrive at a place where we lay our burdens down, give up the struggle, and rest in the comforting arms of our Lord. When we stop struggling, we gain peace and hope for the coming days.
No matter what season of life you currently find yourself – whether recovering from a loss or experiencing the pain of divorce or a life that has been fractured by anger and misunderstanding, or perhaps a chronic illness that forever robs you of the life you knew – you do not have to stay there forever.
Hope carries us forward, even when the world is darkest. Believe that there will be an end to pain and that there will be better days again.
When I was newly grieving the loss of my husband, hope was believing that there would be an end to the grief, and that there would be good days ahead. And while I gave myself permission to retreat and mourn, deep down I knew that I could not – would not – remain there.
As tough a journey as it would be to move beyond that ending, deep down, I knew that in the process of grieving and letting go, I would make some new discoveries about myself that I might not otherwise know.
I remember writing in my journal when I was ready to take charge of my life again:
“This morning as I sit from a new vantage point, I am captivated by the view extending before me, the options available to me. As I remember the dark, deep, and narrow canyons, I am reminded that even there, patches of blue sky could be seen. When I had looked up, those canyon walls expanded, and I felt the power and love of my Heavenly Father as I received a new surge of energy and hope. And when the way out of those dark canyons of grief and sorrow began to disappear, God gave me toeholds, branches to grab hold of and hang on to until the path became clear once more.”
As I reclaimed my life, I began to pick up the pieces and rebuild, creating a new me. Making that transition from what we love and cherish to an unknown future can be both daunting and intimidating.
Sometimes in our haste to get away from what was destroyed or lost, we miss the insight, understanding, and wisdom we are gaining.
As you continue from an ending to new beginning, hang on to hope, especially when the going seems rough.
You will make it through this.
You will enjoy happiness again.
You will live life with purpose and meaning once more.