For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven … a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away. – Ecclesiastes 3:4-5
I can still hear the words from that beloved song sung by the girl with long blonde hair and icy cold hands and heart. You remember the refrain, “Let it go. Let it go. Can’t hold me back anymore. Let it go. Let it go. Turn away and slam the door.” I hear those words because I have an “Elsa” of my own. Not really. Her name isn’t Elsa, her name is Leanna. But she loves to dress in costume and sing this iconic song at the top of her lungs! I have to be honest with you. There have been a few times in the car, with the sunroof back and music blaring, I’ve bellowed out this tune myself—with gusto!
The meaning of the song and Ecclesiastes 3:4-5 is different, but I believe that in both, we can find a central truth to gather and reflect upon today.
There are seasons in life when we get to keep, gather, look for, or pull close. Yet there are other moments in time when our job is to let go, push away, or even turn away. Each comes with its own set of difficulties if we’re honest.
Let’s keep in mind the purpose for which King Solomon wrote about these seasons. He was giving examples of things in life that happen “under heaven.” But he wasn’t merely attempting to give us a few ideas of what to expect in life. He wanted his readers to remember that God, in His sovereignty, appoints things for a purpose. We don’t live in the random. We live in the reality of God’s constant molding, shaping, and mending of our lives. God always operates with intentionality.
I believe the central truth in verses 3 and 4 and in Elsa’s passion-filled song is that in all of life, we must keep open hands.
In Elsa’s fictitious life she needed to be open to her gifts, open to love, and open to sharing her life with others. She didn’t need to seclude herself or lose the love of her family. She needed to cast away fear and loneliness so she could embrace her gifts and her loved ones. Her hands didn’t need to be clinched and hidden underneath gloves, covered because of doubt, fear, and defilement; they needed to be open and extended so that love could warm her heart.
Verses 3-4 from Ecclesiastes 3 remind us that our hands must not be clinched either. Our hands need to be open—open to God and His leading. There are times when we must be open to gather and embrace, even when we don’t want to do so. But there are other times when we must let go or even turn away. Again, our hands must be open and ready to choose God’s ways, not our ways. Open hands, not clinched fists. Open hands, open hearts, and open minds–these each open doors to freedom, fulfillment, and fullness of joy.
Allow me to share a real-life example of what I mean by open hands.
This past January my ministry position changed a bit. I was incredibly comfortable doing what I loved—women’s ministry, writing, discipling. But then, I was asked to accept a new role. Now part of my job was still going to be women’s ministry, but the new facet of my job had to do with our greeting and hospitality at Warren. We call that area of ministry our First Impressions Team. Along with that new role came some decorating responsibilities, as well.
When I first learned about this new role, my hands were clinched tight and filled with disappointment, fear, frustration, and loss. I’ll be honest with you. As silly as it seems, I cried over this new assignment. I wasn’t ready to give up some of my other assignments and embrace the new. I wasn’t ready to gather new ideas, new teams, and new patterns in ministry. I wanted things to stay the way they were.
But God had other plans for me. He didn’t want me comfortable; He wanted me pliable. He didn’t want me to remain the same; He wanted to grow me in some areas of leadership and life skills. And God wanted to see how open my hands and heart would be to His leading.
So, after I cried for a while, I prayed for a while. Then I prayed some more. God spoke personally to me to reveal His will in the situation. I was in the prayer room at Warren, just sitting in the quite listening and hoping to hear from the Lord. I looked on the table nearby and saw a legal pad of paper. On the paper, someone (I have no idea who) had handwritten this message:
“My thoughts over the past several days … Maybe I need to allow His Spirit to pray for me, allow Jesus to intercede for me. Just as Jesus prayed in the garden, ‘Thy will be done.’ Just maybe when I pray, I don’t have full knowledge of all of the circumstances in my life. Just maybe I have been praying for “things” or for “outcomes” outside of His will. Just maybe the desires of my heart are not His perfect will for my life. So please Lord, help me move over and allow you to take control of my life.”
I knew in that moment that my hands were clinched. My hands were not open to His leading, they were holding on to my own desires and plans. You see, open hands reveal an obedient heart and an obedient heart is what God desires from each of us.
What about you? In what circumstance in your life is God asking you to embrace, gather, keep or seek? In what area is He asking you to refrain from embracing, to lose, or cast away?
In every season, we can find the grace to make the choice to move in God’s direction rather than our own. We can be grateful for the lessons and allow God to use the seasons for our good and His glory.
I had a choice to make. I could continue holding on to that which was comfortable and familiar, or I could pry my hands loose, open my hands to God’s leading, and embrace the new by choosing to obey.
I opened my hands.