One of the keys to emotional health is accepting the seasons of life that make up our time on this earth.
King Solomon, one of the wisest men who ever lived, understood this. According to tradition, he authored the book of Ecclesiastes, in which he wrote:
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace. (3:1–8)
Some seasons are obvious; others aren’t immediately discernible. Some seasons begin slowly and gradually; others start suddenly, with a single incident. They all have a time and place. You can set a pattern of seasonal living in the year ahead by following four simple guidelines.
1. BE PRESENT
Stay in the moment. Wherever you are, be there—wholly. Don’t keep one eye on a screen. Don’t let your mind wander to other places, other topics, or other people. Obliviousness is a terrible reason to miss life’s big moments. Keep yourself in a frame of mind to fully experience the events unfolding around you. If you’re in church, worship with everything you’ve got. If you’re at the family dinner table, converse, laugh, and eat heartily. Put the smartphone down. If you’re having a conversation with someone, give that person your undivided attention. Be fully present at all times.
2. BE EMPATHETIC
Everyone’s seasonal cycle is unique. A season of laughing for you may coincide with a season of mourning for your next-door neighbor. Be attentive to the seasons of those around you. Empathize with them. Feel what they feel. Follow the example of Jesus in John 11. He knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Yet when Jesus saw Lazarus’s loved ones mourning his loss, he wept with them. He felt deeply what they were feeling. He entered their season of mourning so he could provide true comfort.
3. BE HONEST
If you’re in a difficult or painful season, don’t keep it to yourself. Tell others. Don’t pretend every day is a dancing season just to make others feel more comfortable around you. Likewise, don’t try to avoid a season because you feel unprepared to deal with it. Share your situation with God, as well as with trusted friends and loved ones. Give them a chance to walk with you through whatever season you’re in.
4. BE WATCHFUL
If you notice that a season is lasting longer than it should—if, for example, you can’t shake feelings of mourning or hate—talk to a counselor. Share your thoughts, experiences, and concerns. A trusted professional may be able to give you the nudge you need to bring a season to a close so you can start a new one.
This blog post was adapted from Unlock the Bible's Secrets, a special-edition magazine that is now available in stores.