Have you ever stopped to consider that God has made death beautiful?
The Preacher in Ecclesiastes 3:11 states boldly that God “has made everything beautiful in its time.”
It’s a good sentiment, but have you ever taken time to think about the implications? The author reaches this conclusion after considering a long list of contrasts. You know the passage… or the Pete Seeger song:
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 break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh… (Eccl 3:1-4)
God has made everything beautiful: death, plucking up, breaking down, weeping. They’re all beautiful in their time. This season is a perfect one to consider that truth. Rather than simply letting the leaves brown and wither, God opted to allow them a glorious goodbye. In some ways, the fiery golds and reds of autumn declare the glory of God better than the vibrant reds and golds of spring.
Ecclesiastes tells us we can never have constant growth, constant abundance, constant life. In fact, death is necessary to create the conditions for life to spring up again.
Let’s dig a little deeper. Paul reached a parallel conclusion when he considered another set of contrasts in Philippians 4:11-12:
…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I’m challenged on a personal level by Paul’s perspective, but I’m also convicted on an organizational level. There’s been a lot written about organizational life cycles and “S” curves. The intense pressure on public companies for constant growth spills over to non-profits. As a leader, I never want to report on decline, let alone preside over it.
The reality is that organizations will have, must have, times of plenty and times of want. There are times when God’s provisions are abundant, when you’re able to engage in mission in new ways. It’s a fun time of dreaming, expansion and starting up. Likewise, there are lean years, times when vision leaks, when mission is difficult and programs must be contracted and commitments pulled back. Such times require digging deep and persisting.
Even those times God makes beautiful.
I’ve noticed in myself a strong sense of discontent about my organization’s situation. We’ve recently come out of a season of decline and contraction, and things are beginning to turn around. But it seems like we never quite have enough resources to do what we think we need to be doing. It feels like we take one step forward and one step back. Every time a new resource comes that we’ve been waiting on for years—and now we can do this big thing we’ve been waiting on—suddenly another resource evaporates and we’re stretched and waiting again.
Even these times God makes beautiful.
Perhaps it’s God’s way of maintaining dependence. Perhaps it’s God’s way of testing our contentment. Like Paul, I need to ask myself whether my contentment comes from circumstances, from growth and abundance, from the need to preside over “success” or from God Himself.
As the leaves start turning and falling to the ground, remember the fact that God has made death and waiting beautiful. And remember that unless these leaves fall to the ground, life can’t come in the spring.
Turn Turn Turn.
[This post republished from my President’s blog on Wycliffe.ca]