In 1965, the Byrds released a song named ‘Turn, turn, turn’ which became a major worldwide hit. They didn’t really write the lyrics though; the vast majority of the lyrics are directly from the Old Testament wisdom book of Ecclesiastes. The main point of the poem in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is that there is a season to everything under heaven. We cannot tell what season we have coming next or predict when we will need to grieve or go to war; we also cannot know when the incredibly positive times might come for us. If we ever start to think that we control our lives, a brief time of reflection on the topic of time will cure that for us.
The Preacher of Ecclesiastes continues on after this poem to reflect on the eternal nature of God compared to the short lives we have. We work now with limited benefit and with great difficulty, and one day we will die and it will pass to another. But God’s works endure forever and he can do whatever He wishes.
When we understand that this life is temporary and we are heading for something eternal if we trust in Jesus, it changes what we expect from this life. If this life is not all there is, that means we shouldn’t expect that everything in this life will satisfy us. We should enjoy the good gifts from God and what we can do, but we mustn’t make what is a temporary thing into the main thing of life.
As usual, Charles Spurgeon puts this memorably and well:
“The Christian is the most contented man in the world, but he is the least contented with the world. He is like a traveller in an inn, perfectly satisfied with the inn and its accommodation, considering it as an inn, but putting quite out of all consideration the idea of making it his home. He baits by the way, and is thankful, but his desires lead him ever onwards towards that better country where the many mansions are prepared. The believer is like a man in a sailing vessel, well content with the good ship for what it is, and hopeful that it will bear him safely across the sea, willing to put up with all its inconveniences without complaint; but if you ask him whether he would choose to live on board in that narrow cabin, he will tell you that he longs for the time when the harbour will be in view, and the green fields, and the happy homesteads of his native land. We, my brethren, thank God for all the appointments of providence, whether our portion be large or scant we are content because God has appointed it: yet our portion is not here, nor would we have it here if we might!” (Spurgeon, ‘The Glorious Hereafter and Ourselves’).
This life God has given us is a good life, complete with good times and hard times. But it is a temporary life. Don’t live as if this life is all there is. Look to the eternal; without God, life becomes vanity and meaningless.