When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future. Ecclesiastes 7, verse 14.
Here’s another verse where we get to consider. A translation for it may be ‘no matter what’s happening, remember God is in control so you don’t need to worry about tomorrow.’ Do the honorable thing? God is there, cheering you on. Do the dishonorable thing? God is there, working and imploring you to turn to a better way, working to turn around the consequences of our sins to bring Divine glory. The guilt of them He has already taken away.
Really? Really. And to pass on this nugget of truth, God asks us again to consider, to think about and accept, this simple truth. It isn’t hard, it isn’t tough, and it isn’t a difficult thing to do. God asks us to consider that He is always around.
Notice a few things, too. The verse encourages happiness. It acknowledges that happiness is a result of good, in this case good times. When times are good, we should be happy. We should make the choice to be happy; we should choose happiness. When times are good, we can choose many other things, say greed or obsession or insecurity or skepticism. Instead of those, the verse says choose happiness, be happy. Let ourselves be happy. It’s what God advises us to do. Think about that.
And when times are bad? We are to consider that God is over all things, including the bad times. It’s not reasonable to tell someone ‘be happy’ when they lose their home, or a loved one dies, or they have a bad day full of crisis, or your teenage daughter says “I’m pregnant.” You could say that such a thing is foolish, even cruel. It’s not a wise thing to tell someone ‘be happy’ when their car is smashed or their kids are disobedient or when there people have heavy bills and there is more month than money left. Again, more cruelty.
It can be a starkly loving thing, though, to gently remind someone that God is somehow at work, then leave it at that. Just love on them. Let them absorb it, chew on it, let it sink in.
Let them come to the realization that God really is in the driver’s seat. He made good times and bad; He allows both. He encourages the celebration and uses the mourning to point to the fact that He loves us. We don’t always bring on the bad times ourselves, though sometimes we do. That isn’t the point: whether we deserve the bad times or not, God is still love and still good and still involved in our lives. You can cheat on your spouse, steal from the church treasury, roast kittens, and pay your taxes on April 16th while you pre-date the check to the day before: God is still at work. He made ALL times, allows ALL things to demonstrate His glory. Here’s where I shut my ecclesiastical chops and say that, if you want to know more, please consult the book of Romans.
After you do that, then consider (there’s that word again) the last part of the verse, namely that you can’t forecast tomorrow. I chuckle when weathermen tell us “tomorrow it will be X, Y or Z.” And I get a chuckle when my kids simply KNOW what someone else will think or do. After all, they’re kids! They know it all! Tell me how much blood, how many cells will pass through your veins in the next 30 seconds. Or how many clouds will pass over Poughkeepsie at noon on October 1st. Please tell me what your dog will do the next time he sees three squirrels, which direction he’ll run. And please tell me how long it will take the server at McDonalds to take your order and deliver your Big Mac (maybe even predict the temperature of those two all-beef patties).
Simple stuff? I think you get the picture. For all we ‘know’ there is so much that we don’t, especially about tomorrow. It’s easy to be wrong but so much harder to be right and not be a jerk about it. Forecasters, pundits and prognosticators are simply making educated guesses. Oh sure, I believe I know what my wife’s reaction would be if I told her I wrecked the car (not good), and I think I know what my boss would do if I spouted off at him with a line of profanity (fire me while responding in kind). But do I KNOW? True confession: no, I really don’t. Neither do you.
Neither you, me, nor Stephen Hawking can tell you if Terra Firma will still be revolving around the Sun come January 1, 2013; maybe the Mayan’s had it correct. We can’t even tell you if it will still be happening next Tuesday. We don’t know. For all our human arrogance, we just don’t. That’s what the verse is saying. God is in control so even though we don’t know what will happen tomorrow (let alone all that’s happening right now), it will be ok. Even more, because we don’t know what will happen next, to God be the glory accordingly. God does know. He simply holds His cards very close, and that’s a good thing. After all, would you REALLY want to know what happens to you next? Could you live with it knowing that you might not be able to change it?
Me neither. That’s why I don’t want to know. It’s better to live trusting that God is in control and have faith in Him, faith in that. When things get tight today – and you have to admit that, at some point, they probably will – consider, think about, accept and noodle that thought for awhile. Then reach out to Him in prayer.