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 kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
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;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
During our men’s Saturday morning Bible study we tend to chase rabbits and make pronouncements. Most of the time those theological rabbit trails are edifying. Sometimes our pronouncements are right on. Sometimes, though, they’re not. Just last week one of the guys turned to the wrong book of the Bible, going to Job 34 rather than Psalm 34. He thought it was serindipitious to discover a verse in Job that echoed the thoughts from the psalm we were reading.
The verse, however, was taken out of context and really didn’t speak to the issue at hand. It sounded like it did. But it did not. At that point one of Job’s self-righteous friends was pontificating about how God acts. On one level he was right. But on the other hand, he was totally wrong.
Elihu was saying true things about God that didn’t really apply to the situation. They were true words, but not aptly-applied: words not filly spoken.
Sometimes we need to speak God’s word of confrontation, challenge, and exhortation. People may need to hear that they are dangerously wrong. Sometimes we need to defend God’s righteousness. Sometimes people need to be set straight. Wounds of a friend may be trusted. Enemies multiply kisses (Proverbs 27:6).
There are other times, however, when God’s people need mercy, grace, assurance, and comfort. They need to know that they are loved. They need to be assured of God’s grace and forgiveness. They need to be comforted by his loving kindness.
Wise is the one who knows what he really needs. An example: I ate too much tonight. The steak and potatoes were wonderful. The wine was a nice complement. I really didn’t need dessert, but I indulged in that as well. I feel bad in two ways. I feel bad that I ate too much, not taking good care of my body. I also feel bad physically. My stomach is too full. I have a touch of indigestion.
The question comes: Ought I feel bad about this? This might actually be a time to feel bad about feeling bad. If my only regret is feeling bad about the discomfort I’m in because I overate, it would be a time to feel bad about feeling bad. I ought to feel that way. It’s not that God doesn’t love me, or that he won’t forgive me. It’s not that I am forever going to suffer for this culinary extravagance. There are consequences to our actions. And I’m living out one of them now.
I look forward to tomorrow, and a new opportunity to experience God’s blessings and grace. I hope somehow to conquer this propensity toward excess food or drink. And I thank God (!) for the bad feelings I have now because they may just help me win my battle for healthier eating habits.